Letter from the Publisher ; Anna Hoke |  Happy Holidays everyone! What a “winter” huh? I wrote my last column on “Winterizing your Pets” in anticipation that we’d have lots of snow in November. I can’t say that I am super disappointed that we don’t have an abundance of snow but I can say that I am very tired of the rain and damp weather. This time of year reminds me of traditions old and new, and by traditions, I use the word lightly. I mean it in the sense of an individual’s or family’s rituals that happen each year that are meaningful and memorable. I’ve written about mine more than once but as this is a time of year for reflection, I am going to reminisce with you once more. For me, the holidays start with Christmas music (ahem, typically following Halloween and before Thanksgiving), decorating and gift buying.

It’s been fun to experiment with do-it-yourself (DIY) decorations such as wreaths made of burlap or stockings made by hand, read Randi Wilson’s article “Bring Nature Home for the Holidays” on page 14 for more DIY ideas! This type of crafting activity reminds me of the things we’d do to prepare for the holidays and the joyous countdown to Christmas. In school we’d construct a chain out of red and green construction paper. Each link would represent a day on the journey to Christmas and each day we’d remove a link. We also had a calendar at home with windows that could be opened with a little piece of candy inside which my brother and I would share. And of course there were always letters to Santa. One year, when my brother and I were young, we started our letters to Santa early. On a frosty morning we awoke to a porch full (I mean hundreds) of “reindeer prints” all over the front deck. The carrots that we’d left for Santa’s team the night before had been eaten except for the tops, it was magical! My mom was always a very good helper to Santa. One time in the store, days before Christmas I found a little kitty stuffed animal that I wanted badly. My mom said no, but maybe Santa would bring it for Christmas. Later that day, as we got in the car after shopping, she said “Anna, you should look in the bags, I saw a flash of red and white run by and throw something in the bag!” Sure enough, Santa, who I hear is a speedy guy tossed the little kitty in the bag.

Recently I was reminiscing about our Christmas tree traditions with family. We’d always get a real tree and then pull out all our decorations, new and old while listening to Christmas music, some songs of which we made our own silly lyrics to. The ornaments would be pulled out of the boxes, one of which was a realistic looking red cardinal bird that was missing a lot of feathers due to a lot of love. Can you spot it in the photo above? My brother and I were infatuated with this bird, as were the cats. We have kept the paper plate and macaroni noodle ornaments, and construction paper and garland Christmas tree and display them proudly year after year. On Christmas Eve we’d attend a family friend’s Christmas party and then attend a service. We’d rush home after that, eat something minimal for dinner and then were lucky enough to open presents on Christmas Eve, and then open presents from Santa on Christmas morning. I remember year after year as a kid having a reoccurring dream on Christmas Eve of opening my presents from Santa and I’d get cleaning supplies and socks. What do you think that means?

Nowadays, as life is busy, my husband and I (and other family members) usually spend Christmas Eve running from store to store because we are “those” people who wait until the last minute. We usually have a wrapping party in the living room till late at night. Where some people might be stressed, I actually love the sense of urgency and excitement this new tradition brings for us. It’s kind of a fun challenge, “are we or aren’t we going to get everything done before Christmas?”
After everything is wrapped and unwrapped and we waddle from stuffing ourselves, we end the month with New Years Eve. My traditions for New Years Eve have been pretty much the same. The championship games for the Juneau Holiday Cup are always on December 31. I watch the games and then either have a party to attend to or I stay home and watch a movie with the family. I always take time to reflect and remember the good times and say goodbye to the bad. For me, 2014 was a wonderful year full of adventure and expansion. I am excited to see what 2015 has to offer. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, Happy Holidays and I will see you in the New Year!
Anna Hoke is the graphic designer and owner of Southeast Living Magazine. She can be reached at anna@seakliving.com.