BK (before kids), Tom was working evenings at a feed mill. That meant he always worked six evenings a week, with Sundays off occasionally. There were even a couple of years when he had to work at least a half shift on Christmas Eve. I don't tell you that for sympathy, only to set the stage.
Since our time to "make merry" was extremely limited, we decided to start our own tradition. If you've read many of my posts, you'll know that traditions are a big deal with me. Shortly before Tom and I were married, Crown Center in Kansas City opened; it's kind of become "our place". With enclosed, attached parking and three levels of shops, theaters and gorgeous Hallmark vistas, Crown Center is always a wonderful place to visit, and quickly became a venue of our holiday traditions.
When we began our holiday dates, our grocery store gave cash back for coupons. So, about the first of September I started putting my coupon money in a special bank on the kitchen counter. By mid-December we had a nice, little stash for our date. Sometimes we went to a movie at one of the theaters in Crown Center, or if nothing was playing that we were interested in seeing, we'd go to a little fancier restaurant.
I think a person whose only sense that functioned properly was her sense of smell would still relish a holiday visit to Crown Center. The rich deep aroma of fudge being stirred in a huge copper cauldron then poured onto a marble slab makes nostrils and taste buds come alive with anticipation. The mixture of cinnamon and sweet on the roasting nuts at a kiosk would make my mouth would start watering as we pulled into the parking garage.
Carolers and choirs sharing their gifts of music in the food court welcomed visitors and employees. Displays of historical Saint Nicholas in the hotel lobby that begged you to sneak a quick stroke of their luxurious robes when security wasn't watching. All senses go on full alert just anticipating the annual pilgrimage.
Being a part of the Hallmark family, the decorations and embellishments somehow combine the lavish and outlandish without becoming tacky. I would love to be able to watch how the scenes and vignettes are designed and created. Since I can't embed sounds and smells and touches, I hope the photos above give you an idea of the beauty we enjoy during our special time together.
When the kids came along we continued our Christmas date. Up into their teens, we continued to go to Crown Center. Then they decided it was time to branch out. For them, branching out meant a movie (try finding any movie that appeals to mom and dad, one in high school, one in middle school, and one in preschool), dinner and a walk around the Plaza admiring the amazing Plaza lights. Still fun, still with the people I loved most in the world, and still choosing for ourselves how to spend our holiday time together.
Alas, kids go to college, kids get married, kids move away. We were actually able to hold onto our Christmas dates until after Annalyn was born. When James became a director of worship arts in a Des Moines church, getting all of us together anytime during Advent was nearly impossible.
Now our Christmas dates have returned to Crown Center, except now they are with our granddaughter, Annalyn. Mary's birthday is December 18 and her husband's is the 29th. Our gift to them is a gift to ourselves, a restaurant gift certificate, and a weekend for Annalyn with Grandpa and Allie. She thinks our Christmas date is magical, and that's the gift she gives to us. Whether it's eating her favorite chicken nuggets delivered by a miniature train set, gazing at the amazing "gingerbread" village or the huge trees, or listening to carols, horseshoes clopping in time with their jingle bells, Annalyn is thrilled, and so are we. This year we are looking forward to including baby sister, Adrienne (Gracie).
Where do you most enjoy going during the holiday season? Who do you most enjoy going with? What do you look forward to during the holiday season?