December 01, 2020
No matter our beliefs, the holiday season is something we look forward to all year. It's a time to come together and celebrate joy—to express love, hope and make memories we’ll hold dear in our hearts for years to come. Although this year may look a little different, let this time be a season for gratitude—when we honor the traditions that are familiar and take the opportunity to appreciate new celebrations as well. It’s more important than ever that we focus on our common humanity, and our favorite way to celebrate those ties that bind us is by incorporating delightful elements of midwinter festivities from around the world into our own beloved and comforting holiday traditions.
What does the phrase the holidays evoke in you? Most of us would agree, for starters, that we’re talking about the festive season between Thanksgiving and the New Year. For many of us, Christmas is what springs immediately to mind, though the magic of that day means something slightly different to each of us. For some, a nativity scene lies at the center of their Christmas feelings, and for others it’s a glowing tree surrounded by carefully wrapped expressions of our love for each other. In some countries, gifts are exchanged and champagne uncorked on Christmas Eve, whereas in the US, the magical frenzy of opening presents happens on Christmas morning. In some countries, Santa Claus hides your treats in a stocking, but in others he’ll put them in your shoes. Every country—and every family—has its own beloved traditions around Advent, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and, last but not least, Christmas dinner!
And for others among us, the holidays means the eight bright nights of Hanukkah, when families gather to progressively light the candles of the menorah. Hanukkah traditions include enjoying potato latkes, jelly donuts, and other traditional treats and spinning the dreidel. Kwanzaa also means feasting together and lighting candles to celebrate the ancestors.
Saint Lucia’s Day, an important holiday in Scandinavian countries and elsewhere in Europe on December 13th, is little known in the US but has all the joyous elements of an archetypal midwinter celebration. Young girls dress as Saint Lucia, in white dresses with a crown of lingonberry branches and a ring of candles. Bread is broken together in the form of saffron buns called lussekatter.
And then, of course, there are all the high-spirited things we do to ring in the New Year and celebrate new beginnings together!
Look for Ways to Add Sparkle and Warmth to Your Home
Focus on Small, Intimate Festive Gatherings
During times of uncertainty we gravitate toward tradition and time with family and dear friends. Remember, what really matters during the holiday season—or any other—is the way we cherish our loved ones.
In a year when travel to exotic lands isn’t possible, why not broaden your holiday horizons and explore from home by researching some of the above festivities and incorporating a bit of each into your own traditions? Children will be the first to tell you that adopting elements from other holiday traditions into your own is a win-win! When you come down to it, holiday festivities around the world all share an emphasis on light, love, delicious treats, and joy.
And the rest? Just details, but that’s where the magic is…
Gather to Trim a Tree
Share the excitement of decorating a holiday tree, one of our most beloved traditions! Invite a few families to your kitchen as you prepare a casual supper—like our chicken barley and spinach soup with freshly baked bread and a winter-inspired grazing board. Enjoy craft cocktails, play or sing carols, and share some holiday spirit! Suggest that your guests bring an ornament to hang on the tree—and they’ll go home with one that you made for them.
Meet for a Christmas Market Night
Have you ever visited a European city during the holiday season? The Christmas markets are an unforgettable tradition—a place to sip a hot beverage and buy handmade holiday gifts from artisans’ stalls nestled in a picturesque, festively adorned square. Take advantage of your outdoor fireplace and heaters to host your own Christmas market-style gathering for close circle friends—featuring steaming cups of mulled wine or Christmas punch, holiday music, warming snacks, and an abundance of good cheer.
Host a Holiday Baking Day
A longstanding tradition in our home is to gather as a family and bake our favorite holiday cookies. Over the years it has become a moment for each generation to anticipate and adore. We don our aprons, sip eggnog, and connect through the art of baking. Every funny story we share, recipe we try, and cookie we decorate (or nibble!) becomes part of the tradition, a sweet stack of loving moments of joy. A plate or decorative tin of assorted holiday cookies is one of our favorite ways to brighten the season for friends and neighbors. Holiday cookies.
Decorate Gingerbread Houses
Invite the cousins or a few of your children's friends for an afternoon of fun with gingerbread. Cover a workspace (kitchen table or island works well) with craft paper and set a place for each child with their own gingerbread house to detail. Arrange clear bowls at each station with a pastry bag of royal icing and assorted candies. Gumdrops, peppermint sticks, M&Ms—the sky’s the limit with possibilities for getting creative. Serve some holiday-themed healthy bites like “reindeer food” (crunchy veggie sticks with dip) or Christmas cookie-cutter nut butter and jam sandwiches and our gingerbread cookies to snack on. Pro tip: pick up some small fruit crates or cardboard flats at your market so that each child can transport their creation home without mishap.:)
Keep the Joy Going
We could go on and on—the possibilities for seasonal fun are so, so many! Plan a festive candle-lit dinner. Even if it’s just for your own family, dimming the lights and eating by candlelight changes everything. Celebrate the first snowfall with a sled ride, snowshoeing, ice skating, or building a snowman. Then warm up by the fire with piping hot cocoa. A surefire way to delight everyone, young and old, is a make-your-own hot chocolate bar with whipped cream, mini marshmallows, chocolate bits, candy canes, and a nip of Baileys for the grownups. Read little ones their favorite holiday stories or cuddle up and enjoy your favorite family holiday films together—there are certain classics no one ever gets tired of!
Send Season’s Greetings
For many of us, the holiday card we send out to friends near and far is the occasion for an end-of-year roundup of personal and family news. Whether or not you do an annual letter, now is the time to reach out in some way or another to those you care about. Write a letter to a dear friend. Send family photos to relatives. Create a playlist of festive music that gets you dancing around the living room and kitchen and share it to brighten someone’s December. Schedule a catch-up call or Zoom to let people know you’re thinking of them, especially those who might be struggling with the unusual separation that everybody is feeling more keenly at this time of this particular year.
Holiday Self-Care is a Must
Taking good care of yourself during the holiday season is as essential as watching out for those around you who might need a little extra TLC. Although we’re all paying attention to the news, it's important to keep a healthy balance right now—so eat well despite the occasional indulgences, rest, relax, and enjoy your family. Practice yoga to focus on your mind and body and take a brisk walk to boost your energy. Savor this precious moment when nature is dormant and time slows down.
Festive Season Design Notes
Deck the halls—but keep the design simple and chic, using elements from nature to anchor your decor and choosing a neutral, light palette to create a cozy holiday feeling. We love winter whites in various textures, especially lovely blended throws, paper whites, and simple twinkling lights. Winter boughs like pine, juniper, magnolia, olive, birch, green oak, and holly all complement each other in wreaths or simple, elegant garlands to create a welcome entrance for your home or adorn a long table. Accent them with pinecones and neutral woven ribbon for a classic, understated look that you’ll enjoy well into January. Add comfort to the air with earthy scented candles—like the Juniper and Lavender or Winter Woods candles from our winter candle collection. Shop our home collection.
Your Christmas tree—if that’s part of your tradition—is at the center of your winter wonderland, but you can bring holiday cheer to other parts of your home with small trees or even decorated winter boughs in your office, the stairway landing, or a child’s bedroom.
Create your Winter Wonderland
Where do you love to gather at this time of year? Keep a basket of warm, luxurious throws in your family living space and another of cozy slippers or woven socks by your entry door. If you can, spend time together outside. Fill outdoor urns with tiny pines or cypress trees. Use candles, lamps, and simple strings of lights to add both light and cheer, but don’t go overboard: nothing can compete with a breathtakingly clear winter sky.
Make Arrangements Merry
Indulge your creativity in bouquets. We like to keep the theme of seasonal simplicity going with ours—lots of winter whites and greens, including pepper berries on the branch, paper whites, and amaryllis. Force some of these bulbs in your favorite containers (they take about two weeks to open) and depending on the timing, they will last well into the New Year.
A Holiday Feast
Whether you’re looking to turn heads with a Christmas dinner showstopper, complement the craft cocktails for a midwinter apéro party, add some festive cheer to a midweek meal, or simply indulge in some seasonal comfort food, we’ve got the bases covered for you in our December epicure.
Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Cream and Holiday Asparagus Bundles
Chicken Barley and Spinach Soup
Baked Brie with Cranberries
GeeGee’s Christmas Rum Ball and Scotch Crescent Cookies
Give Gifts from the Heart
What better gift can we give each other at a moment like this than the gift of comfort? We kept this in mind as we curated our holiday offerings this year at partager la joie.
In our Chic Style Collection, it’s faux fur galore—scarves, vests, and adorable statement purses from Alex Max. Our incredibly soft Berber fleece loungewear is a sure winter staple. We have an exquisite jewelry collection from Joya to complement all this cozy warmth with a bit of spark. Pair our stylish pom-pom hats with matching glove sets or a chic winter jacket by Love Token, and tie it all together with a carryall or wool pouch by Libecco or a leather bag by Half United.
For the home, add natural, understated warmth to your holiday table with fine linens by Libeco, olive wood accessories by Scents & Feel, and our winter-inspired candles: Cedar and Amber, Winter Woods, Fireside, and Juniper and Lavender by Near & Native. We’re particularly in love with our ultra-soft throw blankets from Lands Downunder. And last by not least, we’ve gathered an assortment of winter wellness essentials to help you and your loved ones through the cold months—lavender neck wraps, eye pillows, and a soothing, nourishing collection of bath salts, body oils and body butters, just to name a few.
A Time for New Beginnings
In nearly every culture under the sun, midwinter marks a time for the fading out of the old and the welcoming in of the new. On December 21st we celebrate winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. It all gets brighter starting now! And then there’s New Year’s Eve—let’s say goodbye to 2020 and make a joyous toast together about what we wish from 2021. Host a small gathering to ring in the new year, or a brunch on January 1st—but not too early in the day!
However you choose to celebrate the turning of the year, it’s a moment to reflect on regeneration and resolutions, on what we want to keep, going forward, and what we want to let go. Take the time to journal on these themes; your notes will guide you at different times in the coming year. This is a moment to take stock of what we’re grateful for. It’s a moment to share our hopes and wishes for the future, and above all, express our love for those who give us joy.
May your holiday season and your hearts be bright, cozy, sweet, and full of happiness!
—partager la joie
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