Not sure about your family but in mine, we always take pictures in front of the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Well, not everyone…more like me and my two cousins. The combination of family members in front of the tree changes from year to year but our cousin picture is always a constant.
We also have a fancy Christmas Eve dinner with everyone sitting around one table (remember, small family). In the past few years the tradition includes family members helping with various dishes like Glühwein (clearly our addition), salad, veggie, potato, etc. After dinner, we snack on an assortment of cookies, pop the holiday crackers/poppers, and play a family game. Before everyone heads their separate ways for the evening, we read “The Night Before Christmas”. Everyone reads one page as we pass the book around the table. Some years we even use silly voices.
My family, the Dieter side, is small. Three sisters, three cousins, three second cousins…soon to be four, plus spouses/significant others. Our small family has been gathering for Christmas in Washington DC for as long as I can remember. And in the 30+ years we’ve been going to DC, we’ve created quite a few traditions.
One of those traditions is baking cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve day. Every year for the past 10 years, my cousin hosts our family for brunch and cookie making on December 24th. Each year my niece & nephew (officially second cousins) use the various stampers to cut out the cookie shapes and we all gather around to ice the cookies.
I’ve always loved this tradition and hope in continues when Carson is old enough to participate.
Not sure about everyone else but stocking stuffers are big deal in our family. We are a small family but purchasing gifts for everyone is quite taxing on the wallet. Instead, we get each other stocking stuffers (aka stuff for the stockings). When this tradition started we were supposed to spend no more than $5/person. I tend to spend a little bit more…but no more than $15. Here are some of my stocking stuffer recommendations. (If you are in my family, you may be getting some of these in your stocking ;).
For the Ladies:
Hidden Valley Ranch packets: There are many times in Germany that I miss the comforts of home. When back in the states I like to stock up on these packets so I can make some of my favorite recipes or a good old American ranch for veggies or my salads. (No joke, this is on my stocking stuffer wishlist).
Handmade lavender soap: This year, some of my family members will receive lovely handmade lavender soap that was picked up in the Provence region of France.
Smartwatch wristband: If you have a smartwatch wearer in your family like I do, you could surprise them with a decorative/new wristband. While I love my FitBit, I don’t always like it to look like a FitBit.
Jewelry cleaner: A friend recommended this jewelry cleaner to me and I took the bait and bought it. It is the most simple, easiest to use, best results type of jewelry cleaner. I highly recommend this product for any jewelry wearer in your family.
LUSH products: Since moving to Germany, I have fallen in love with anything LUSH! While I will always recommend their bath bombs (should you be a bath taker), my stocking stuffer picks are the lip scrub, lip balm, and calming lotion. The lip scrub and lip balm are essentials in my house as I use them daily. I use the sleep lotion in the evening when I’m ready for bed. These are perfect for anyone who likes to pamper themselves.
Earrings: I found these gems on the Iron Fox Clothing Instagram account today! How does Kristi always seem to know exactly what I am looking for? These are perfect for the fashionista in your life and set at reasonable prices.
For the Gentlemen:
AirPod case: Is your loved one getting AirPods this Christmas? If they are, or already have them, this is a great protective sleeve for the AirPod charging case. It also helps the owner of the AirPods identify their case if you happen to be a multiple AirPod household. Let’s just say there will be one in my stocking, my mother in law’s stocking, and Jeff’s stocking (Shhh).
Fun socks: Not sure when but in more recent years, Jeff has traded in his boring black and white socks for more colorful & fun ones. He has and routinely wears his avocado socks and will be getting some colorful hamburger socks in his stocking this year.
Beard oil: Does the man in your life have a beard? If yes, he NEEDS this beard oil! As regulations at Jeff’s job are different in Germany then in the states, he is able to grow a full beard. He is extremely proud of this beard and regularly gets beard trims whenever he gets a haircut. He uses beard oil everyday!
Gourmet mustard: These are perfect for the foodie or gourmet cook in your life. Enjoy the different flavor combinations these mustards provide. Again, we picked these up in the Provence region in France at a vineyard but you can find them in any specialty food store…or Amazon.
For the Toddlers:
Indestructible holiday book: If you have an infant or toddler and haven’t ordered these yet, what are you waiting for? These chew proof, rip proof, nontoxic, 100% washable books are lightweight and brightly colored to keep little one’s attention.
Dimple by Fat Brain Toys: We keep this staple in our diaper bag. Carson plays with it weekly, if not daily, whenever we are out of the house. Even at 20 months, she is still engaged while using it.
Little People Princess Parade: Carson loves Disney princesses and things that move. The Little People collection by Fisher Price combines BOTH! She also has a small collection of Little People by Fisher Price and loves playing with them. These will be an excellent addition to her collection.
Silly glasses: Who doesn’t love playing dress up? Your little one will love getting in the holiday spirit with these goofy holiday glasses.
Color Wonder coloring book: Carson is an avid colorer and would prefer to color with anything I don’t want her to (ie. markers, pens, Sharpies, etc). The Color Wonder markers by Crayola won’t mark on anything other than the Color Wonder coloring books. Carson will be receiving quite a few of these in her stocking this year!
This is not an ad. Many of these are stocking stuffers that I will be giving this year as well as items that are already in use in our household. Some of the items have been purchased outside of the USA. In those cases, I have done my best to find a similar product on Amazon. Good luck on your hunt for the perfect stocking stuffers for your loved ones!
When the holidays roll around, Jeff and I love spending time with our family. Usually we are in LA for Thanksgiving and DC for Christmas. For the past two years, we felt that flying to the states for Thanksgiving and then again at Christmas would be too taxing, especially on Carson. She is a great little traveler but the 3 day jet lag is no fun. Luckily for us, we haven’t had to spend Thanksgiving alone. Last year our LA family met us in Paris. This year our expat family gathered in the Eifel region of Germany.
2018: Paris, France
Paris is a 5 hour drive from where we are living in Germany. Since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, Jeff took a few days off from work and we headed to Paris to meet up with our LA family. In total we had 7 adults and 1 baby. We rented a beautiful 4 bedroom Air BnB near the place de la republique, complete with a full kitchen so we could prepare a somewhat proper Thanksgiving dinner. Days were spent exploring the city and nights were spent drinking too much wine and catching up.
At that point in time, we had been living in Germany for two months and while I wasn’t completely homesick, I was definitely missing American TV…or anything in English. On Thanksgiving day the crew headed out to gather ingredients for dinner while Carson and I enjoyed couch time and American Netflix (yes, there is a difference in what is offered on Netflix dependent on the country). I was also stressed out because all of our belongings had been delivered to Germany the day before we left on this adventure and our new home was a complete disaster, more on that in another post. Thankfully, I was able to relax and enjoy some quiet time. Turkeys were unavailable at such late notice as they aren’t a staple in France, but we were able to scrounge up a whole chicken, herbs and fresh veggies for our feast.
2019: Schleiden, Germany
This year for Thanksgiving, we celebrated with our expatriate crew: 31 adults, 1 teenager, 3 toddlers, & 2 dogs or 20 Americans, 5 Australians, 3 Germans, 3 Frenchmen, 2 Canadians, 1 Brit and 1 Egyptian. Two fearless leaders took charge and found an entire hotel for rent on Air BnB in the small town of Schleiden. Seriously, it was just our crew taking over this hotel that was complete with industrial kitchen, large dining room and bar area. Instead of taking off time from work and celebrating on Thursday (actual Thanksgiving), we all decided it was best to wait until the weekend. Days were spent exploring the outdoors on hikes and going to Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas Markets). Nights were spent playing board games and watching American college football.
Not only is it pretty cool that our group gets along so well but that everyone did their part when it came to the Thanksgiving feast. Whether they made one of the 3 turkeys, prepared a side dish like green bean casserole, potatoes or stuffing, baked pies, decorated tables, or brought snacks for when we weren’t feasting…we all did our part.
I’m looking forward to see what’s in store for Thanksgiving 2020.