Thursday, December 19, 2013

From Our Home to Yours with Love and Holiday Greetings!

It's that time of year again where we take the opportunity to carve out time from our busy schedules and regroup to spend time with family and close friends as we celebrate Christmas. No matter how you spend it and what your traditions are, it's always a time to reflect on what is truly important. Today, I am collaborating with Kendra Thornton, a well-renown travel expert and we decided to share some of what our families are doing this Christmas Season.

We all hope that your holiday is shaping up to be as warm and wonderful as the Thornton's Christmas promises to be. Christmas in Chicago-land is always a brisk but cheerful experience, and this year promises to be no different. The magic of the season and the anticipated Christmas holiday is abundantly prominent in the air, and in the way people are smiling and humming Christmas carols. It's a wonderfully festive time and a pure delight for the young ones. Our family is particularly looking forward to the delicious foods, beverages, and charming traditions that our beloved Norwegian heritage brings to the table each year.

Taking some time out for traditions will be something we hope our families will remember fondly as we look back at what truly made them special. For the Smith family, we take time to plan a road trip of sorts to visit the light displays in Alta Loma, CA. Each year families spend days working on their light displays and the entire city gets involved. It's become so famous that it is featured in the local paper as a definite place to visit. We pack up the car and head down with the entire family. To truly enjoy the festive atmosphere, you must park your car and take a walk around the neighborhood to really get into the mood. You can stop and buy some hot chocolate, tamales or even a chocolate chip cookie right from the oven. Afterwards, we all enjoy dinner out to talk about the memories and which homes were our favorites.

Oysters are a delightful, traditional part of our yearly Christmas festivities for the Thorntons. The family makes kringla and lefse, and on Christmas Eve, all gather together to "shoot" a raw oyster down their throat simultaneously! It's always a hilarious event; one that we share with laughs and hugs. Immediately following the "shoot," we enjoy a steaming bowl of oyster stew, which is followed by a hearty shot of Akvavit, a brisk, bold traditional Scandinavian spirit with a distinct hot tinge to it. A joyous toast of "Skol!" is then proposed by one and all.

Back at the Smith house, packages are beginning to be wrapped with tender care with each year becoming an art form of some sort. We love to see gifts wrapped around the base of our tree. We spend Christmas Eve, watching our favorite Christmas movies like It's A Wonderful Life, The Muppet Christmas, Christmas Vacation and Elf. We order food to be delivered because we know the food preparations will soon be underway on Christmas day so it's a nice break in the hustle and bustle of Christmas baking.

During the holiday season, the Thornton kids always enjoy ice-skating in the brisk winter air. They also pitch in with decorating the tree proudly displayed in our bay window, and helping me bake our delicious traditional Norwegian dinner. Of course they cannot wait to enjoy our family tradition of sipping hot cocoa and garnishing the cookies we leave for Santa on Christmas Eve. In addition, to the children's delight, we are sure to make and sprinkle some "magical" reindeer dust outside their bedroom windows; without it, Santa's reindeer might have a difficult time finding the house! So far, Santa's charges have never had a problem.

This has been a very special Christmas for the Smith's this year. After literally losing our home and my husband's job in the same week last year, God has shown His tender loving hand this year. We literally realized that nothing we own here is really ours and everything we have is a gift on loan from Him while we are on this Earth. God has provided so graciously and by placing our trust in Him and not the world, He has been faithful in His promises. We have a new home and a wonderful job that has become permanent for my husband last year, something that goes beyond what we could ever have managed on our own.

As someone who has traveled the world over, seeing Christmas in many parts of the world, I have never been anywhere that beats being home for the holidays. Surrounded with the love of my family, and the crisp, shimmering, white snow, there is no finer place on Earth than home. I read on article on Gogobot’s blog about warm vs. cold Christmas’s and for me, you just cannot beat a chilly, seasonal frost in the air for Christmas. Christmas should always include the feel of crunchy snow, the scent of fresh evergreens, and the fun of skates on ice. Truly, all I have ever known are cold, white Christmases; for the Thornton’s, that's the way it should be. What makes Christmas special for you?

That's easy, it's realizing that for the Smith family, it is never about the receiving of gifts. It's about the giving. We will look back a year from now and barely remember what we received but it's the gift that brings hope and light in the darkest of places for people that will remember forever. We have had the wonderful opportunity to adopt a Compassion International Child from Africa this year and just knowing the difference we are making in his life will be forever life changing for him. We hope to add even more children this year. We have taken a different approach to give back and give all the glory and blessings to God who has richly provided for us this year.

We were fortunate to have the entire Thornton clan and all our relatives at our Thanksgiving table. We will be welcoming them back for our grand Christmas meal too. We are all so looking forward to it! Christmas just wouldn't be the same without all our loved ones together. I certainly hope that your Christmas also includes many loved ones.

We are thrilled that my husband isn't traveling as much during the last part of December as he's been super busy this last year getting the opportunity to travel literally all over the US with his new job. We can't wait to take some much needed vacation time to sit back and just relax together as a family, sitting by the fire and enjoying some great family time. While the Smith family gets together throughout the year this enables us to truly enjoy just some one on one time within our own homes and avoid all the hassle of traveling.

Wishing you the merriest of Christmases and the best new year yet, the Thorntons say HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Wishing all of our Facebook family and friends a truly blessed Christmas from the Smith family and a Happy New Year. May every Christmas light you see this year, remind you of God's light and the gift He provided to use so that we don't have to live in the darkness any longer.

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