Intentional Christmas


At Christmastime, I bake cookie ornaments.
It’s what I do. It’s who I am. It’s what makes Christmas for me. I decorate them.
Children decorate them.
I love the orange slices, the twig stars, the popcorn garlands, all the homemade and handmade gifts.
But no matter how much I love all the rest of what rounds out Christmas, it’s all about the cookie ornaments for me. Sometimes readers ask me why I don’t make the kind of dough ornaments that last from year to year. I like to bake cookies for the tree every year. It puts me in the holiday spirit and it reminds me of what is important–to be in the moment, here, now, smell it, taste it, feel it. It’s simple, creative, nearly free, and made with my own hands. It puts my mind in the right place. I have to make the cookie ornaments new each year. It’s my ritual, my tradition, my intentional Christmas. It’s not my only way of marking the season, but it’s the one that somehow means the most to me, that seems to sum up all the rest in one.
It makes my Christmas. (After Christmas, the cookie ornaments serve as goat treats until they run out.)
What makes Christmas for you? And you can’t say family/loved ones/PEOPLE OF ANY KIND because we all know that comes first–I want to know what comes right after that? What do you do, have to do every year? What is your intentional Christmas?


  1. Jeni says:

    PRETTY COOKIES! Christmas used to be reading The Polar Express to my kids…now we watch the Polar Express movie and eat Christmas Cookies. Nom, nom, nom! :hungry:

  2. Cheryl says:

    Making the same dishes my Mom, aunts, and great aunts made. Helping the younger kids and older grands make gift baskets for neighbors and friends.

    BTW, my granddaughter who is 8 and I made the Cast Iron Pan Candy today…, it is too good. We drizzled white chocolate over it. To die for!

    One of my favorite things, is the Christmas cards. I love hearing from friends and relatives.

    In our entry way, I take ribbon that has the wire in the edges and with thumb tacks, arrange the ribbon in the shape of a Christmas tree. We start about three feet up from the floor and the tree itself, is about 4 feet high. The area inside the tree we cover with pictures of family and friends, some are old of people who have passed away, some are new….some are friends, some are pets, just whatever strikes our fancy. Then on both sides of the “tree” we hang the Christmas cards we receive. Everyone has to stop and look…find their own picture, or the one when they were a baby. It is fun, it connects us with the generation before us, and it is the Christmas decoration I love the most.

  3. Victoria Sturdevant says:

    I always make ornaments to give as gifts. We my son was young I helped him make them and now my grandson and I are on third year of making them.

  4. Darlene in North Georgia says:

    We have to have the same menu for Thanksgiving AND Christmas.
    Baked Turkey with stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, fresh green beans, cranberry sauce, black and green olives, pumpkin, chocolate pecan and Hershey Bar Pies. Sometimes I also make fresh rolls to go with it.

  5. masonjar says:

    In the past it has been many things from baking to shopping,decorating the house/tree…but this year it has been the kindness of strangers! Those random acts of giving to some one that you don’t know. This year I have been given this gift and it shall go with me till I die and I will to the best of my ability pass this kindness on to others, from this point onward.
    So thank you

  6. Kim says:

    Im with you the baking of the cookies is Christmas to me- especially gingerbread roll out cookies- though I think we’re going to start a tradition of decorating a tree for the birds outside.

  7. S. says:

    For me, it’s about sitting in a darkened room in front of a beautiful lit tree for hours and hours in the days around Christmas nibbling sugar cookies and listening to Christmas music, and the food: homemade blood sausage baked with thick slices of bacon, served with homemade cranberry relish, sauerkraut and potatoes, and a little cold beet salad on the side.

  8. lisa brawner says:

    It would be the baking..xmas cartoons for me . I cant wait to start doing the xmas goodie baking every year while watching xmas cartoons. I grew up at xmas helping bake every year …that and the cartoons were what we did . Presents were never an important part of the holidays for us.

  9. Brenda says:

    One of our traditions at our house along with cookies and fudge are cinnamon ornaments. We make batches to put them on the tree, in a basket, small pieces in homemade potpourri, make sachet bags for gifts in gift baskets. The possibilities are endless. And the smell is amazing.

  10. Runningtrails says:

    For me its decorating the tree and house. I am the one who does it, no one helps. When I had kids to help they did a bit but were never every interested in helping. I have always loved it. I do it when I am alone, with some Christmas music and go slow, take my time and enjoy it.

    I also have to make squash/pumpkin pies.

  11. Runningtrails says:

    I made gingerbread tree ornaments from permanent dough when the kids were small. They grew mold in storage in the damp basement. I might make some more next year…

  12. Natalie says:

    It’s difficult to decide on just one…I also like sitting in the living room with the soft glow of the tree lights.

    I also enjoy all the Christmas cards. I send out over 90 cards to relatives, high school friends, college friends and to people that I have worked with that have now moved away.

    But what comes to mind first is our Lefse. We have the big griddle, the special rolling pin and our family recipe.

  13. Box Call says:

    I have to hang up some Christmas lights outside….I don’t know why, nothing like the Griswalds just some lights on the fence, a few in the trees. I did finally quit getting on the roof to hang them on the house though. I tried this year to not put any up but gave in to my urges yesterday.

  14. wkf says:

    Eggnog, with or without the nog,and christmas music.

  15. KateS says:

    Wrapping presents! Candles, Christmas music On Loudly – I love Christmas music! and the cat trying to lay on the wrapping paper and chasing the ribbons! :snoopy:

  16. trish robichaud says:

    Christmas has always been my favorite day of the year. it means baking, tree with lights, the scent of pine and bayberry, the music that evokes memories of times past. outside the house shines like a jewel and there is always one neighbor who seems to go overboard with the blow up yard decorations, but for me i would have to say what i do that means the most is bake all kinds of goodies and put them into tins and give one to every house on my street. also red bows inside and outside really are festive.

  17. Mary says:

    For me it’s the Nativity set we arrange on the mantel each Advent. My mother made it years ago in a ceramic class and it is a real treasure. I have it stored in a big box with each piece wrapped in a separate piece of cloth. My granddaughter opens each piece of cloth and hands the beautiful piece to me as I set it upon the straw we have placed there. Then we tuck a strand of lights behind it all. My mother is gone now, so this becomes more and more meaningful. She hand painted 5 sets of these in her younger days, one for each of her daughters…a real treasure.

    • Laura says:

      Oh my gosh, that sounds like me! I posted about the silver bells my mom gave to my daughter, but was torn between the bells or the nativity. She also gave me and my sister a nativity set she had made in ceramics class and it is so beautiful. I put it up every year first and take it down last. She chose to paint the pieces in very bold and festive colors (I’ve seen them painted all kinds of ways and even left white, all beautiful) and I think of her every time I look at it! Yes, it’s such a treasure.

  18. Laura says:

    For me, it’s the silver bells. Every year my mom used to give my daughter a Reed and Barton silver bell with her name and the year engraved on it. She died when my daughter was 16 and her best friend gave her the 17th and 18th bell. They tarnish badly, so I love to polish them and put them on my tree first before anything else. Someday, she will get those bells, but for now I’ll hold onto them as long as I can. (She’s 28 and I still can’t let them go!)

  19. Lisa L. says:

    We always start the season with the movie Christmas Vacation….that seems to put us in the Christmas spirit for some reason.

  20. Diane says:

    Christmas starts with my tree. And the nativity has go come out as well. Then I like to decorate the house and watch Christmas movies in the evenings during our dinner. Each year I try to buy a new Christmas ornament for the tree. I have a hugs collection that fills my tree. I have lots of handmade ornaments on it as well as bought ones.

  21. Marla says:

    “Christmas Vacation” to get me into the mood, and Christmas Eve is only Christmas Eve with “Lutefisk and Lefse.” What can I say, I’m Swedish!

  22. Shelley says:

    We have a small gathering of close family on Christmas Day for a relaxing meal and we avoid shopping for gifts. Gifts are almost always of the homemade variety, except for my Mom’s must-have crossword books! Love the idea of leftover ornaments for goat treats. May have to try some this year to give to my goat babies.

  23. Carmen Smith says:

    I’m with you Suzanne…it’s ALL ABOUT THE BAKING!!!!!!! I love handmade ornaments too, but I don’t make the gingerbreads for the tree as my german Shepherd would be over there eating them, and who knows, I might be right beside her, LOL!!!!!

  24. Liz in Wis says:

    I do appreciate a cold, winter’s, night, walk; follwed with a hot beverage. A quite snowfall is a plus.

  25. Leah says:

    Those of you that read the forum already know I make Christmas cards every year.This yr we did a Christmas Swap that’s still going on.It’s been a big hit,so I’m hoping that will be a yearly thing I do for Christmas.I listen to Christmas music everyday over the holidays too. I like to make treats,to giveaway,like the toffee spoons and the reindeer munchies (listed in our community cookbook)Also I like to cook something special for brkft Christmas morning This year it will be Monkey Bread and a Velveeta Sausage and egg casserole I posted in Just Recipes on the forum. Happy Holidays Everyone, I need to get crackin!

  26. Susan says:

    Suzanne, I am completely inspired! Christmas has completely enveloped your home. I’ve purchased cookie cutters and baking sheets and colorful sprinkles and they just sit on the utility table waiting to fulfill their purpose. Christmas is coming whether or not I’m ready. Time to start baking!!!!

    Love your blog!!!!

    Susan at Charm of the Carolines

  27. Lovin a Farmboy says:

    11:00 Christmas eve Candlelight service. It’s not Christmas until you sing Silent Night in a room lit only by candles held by very special people. Then you leave and can tell everyone Merry Christmas, because it’s finally Christmas!

  28. Pete says:

    Two things: watching the Christmas movies and Christams Eve church. Must see all the movies, every year, sometimes multiple times during the season. Then a church service somewhere, preferably with traditional Christmas hymns and candles lit to celebrate.

  29. JOJO says:

    :woof: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman:
    My intentional Christmas is much like your Suzanne–it is about the cookies and the baking and the candy making.
    I love the feeling you get this time of year, I love the music–I love it all.
    I put up 5 trees every year, and the first one we light on Thanksgiving night. Gifts are not really a part of our Christmas, it is have the once a year fun things, the special things we do for our family, and ourself.It is the decorating and the smells.
    I am starting my canding making and baking this week, I have a big wicker basket will all my baking ingriedients ready to go. The cookie cutterS are out and the baking sheets are ready.
    I love getting up very early when it is still dark and turning on the trees and the fireplace and having my coffee–it is so beautiful and peaceful.
    Life at that moment is perfect!
    :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman: :snowman:

  30. Debnfla3 says:

    I also love the baking, decorating the tree and playing my John Denver Christmas music…I adore John Denver!
    I give all my neighbors fresh baked bread, pound cakes and cookies.
    I love the idea of your cookies on the tree. Amazingly we never did that growing up! But I have Mama’s glass blown bulbs with nativity scenes in them. They are beautiful and I carefully wrap each one in bubble wrap and cloth each year after taking the tree down.


  31. Mama Pea says:

    It would have to be the decorations for me. (Okay, and the Christmas music!) If, for some reason, I couldn’t decorate inside for Christmas, there would be no way I could get in the mood or feel the spirit of the holidays. Yes, I could even do without the baking (did I just say that?) if I had to, but if the house weren’t full of Christmas cheer, it just wouldn’t be right.

  32. Becky says:

    I have to hear Oh Holy Night and The Christmas Song (among others) while baking cookies and making bread. I have to put a lit candle in the window each night. Without doing that, it just isn’t ‘the season of lights’ for me. :butterfly:

  33. sharee says:

    For me it wouldnt’ be christmas without hauling the family out to cut down our christmas tree. We have done this our whole life and when I moved away and got married thats what I started with my family. This year due to money we didnt. We have a fake tree that was left with the house we bought and it still worked. So we have an adorable 4′ pre lit tree on a stand in the living room. So since its not real we put homemade cookies on it, country fabric and twig stars. We put our own touch on it. So it may not be following tradition but…we did it all as a family and thats what mattered most. Merry Christmas

  34. trish says:

    For me it is watching the movie Prancer. By myself, because no one else in the family likes the movie. Something about the little girl in the movie touched me the first time I saw the movie and now I have to watch it every year.

  35. Maggie says:

    Suzanne, I love your blog. It is a place I feel at home. I like how you present yourself and how supportive and positive your readers are. But I need to step away from your blog for a couple of weeks. I will miss the stories of the animals, the cooking/baking and the humor. But I quote from the Rules/standards posted by Suzanne of Walton WV on 11/14/09 in regards to forum post. “5. Religion and politics are not appropriate subjects of discussion on these forums.” To me the celebration of Christmas is a Christian celebration and the last time I checked Christianity is a religion. I am not a Christion. I am not offended by your post about Christmas. Your blog is about you sharing parts of your life, and your holiday traditions are a vital part of that. To that I say, you go girl! I hope I have not offended or hurt anyone, that is not my intention. But I do post regular comments and someone may notice that I am missing. I may continue to lurk from time to time the next couple of weeks, your a tough habbit to break, but I must stay true to myself and my own traditions. See you next year…sorry I had to go there,

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Maggie, I hope you’ll be back! As for the forum standards, it’s true that I don’t allow philosophical religious or political topics there in order to avoid debates or arguments over specific religious or political views, though people do post Christmas and other holiday traditions, recipes, etc (and anyone is welcome to post ANY holiday traditions, whether they are historically Christian-based or not, as long as the topic stays out of philosophical religious views). I just don’t want any philosophical arguments starting up. If you’ll notice, I don’t post about Christmas from a religious viewpoint but rather as a celebration of the season and traditions (much in the same way you’ll find it in other public media, such as Martha Stewart or Good Morning, America–NOT COMPARING myself to them in any way other than saying it’s just part of this time of year for many people involved in media, including me, but I don’t post any specific religious viewpoints about it). However, I understand your position and I appreciate you taking the time to explain.

      • Christa Patterson says:

        Thanks for sharing your point of view. Is there a way of forwarding a specific part of you blog to others?? I appreciate your efforts to stay in the now and would say that I have given up on traditional holidays – for Christmas I would cook only what someone who was going to be present felt that they hadn’t had enough of – like lasagna or Swedish meatballs both are a pain to cook and don’t get offered enough during the year – a tradition????

  36. Linda in New Mexico says:

    We live in a part of the country that embraces Christmas with an atmosphere on Christmas Eve that is if nothing else amazing. We always go to the Old Town section of Albuquerque and tour the displays of Luminarias. Brown paper bags, filled with sand and a lit votive candle placed inside. There is such simplicity and is gorgeous en masse. We place them around our front yard but ours do not compare in numbers to those in the Old Town area. It would not be Christmas without loading up the car with hot cocoa in thermos, biscochitos (traditional Christmas cookies) and touring the silence, soft candle lit, tour of New Mexico’s answer to Fairy land.

  37. G-Mama says:

    I love to bake and package treats for neighbors and friends. I love country gospel Sunday at our little country church. The service is led by country gospel singers and followed by horse-drawn sleigh rides. This year, my sister and I and our husbands are going to round out the afternoon by going to see a play called “The Church Basement Ladies.” This is our third year for the country gospel Sunday. On Dec. 24th I will make lefse for our family feast on Christmas Day. I try to remember to enjoy the real meaning of Christmas every day until Christmas Day.

  38. auntbear says:

    It’s all about the holiday smells and songs for me. Love the balsam fir Christmas tree , gingerbread cookies and jingle bells!

  39. catslady says:

    What about the inside animals – don’t they try to get at the cookies?? I’ve always wanted to string popcorn but our dog tried to eat it and I don’t much trust my cats either lol.
    Today we go to my daughters tree trimming and next week I have one. She’s carried on the tradition that I started many, many years ago when we had an ucle with no where to go. It’s grown over the years. Neither of us have very big places (hers is a small apt.) so we stagger some of the people but we love taking out the ornamets one by one with so many memories (she has 25 years worth 🙂

  40. IowaCowgirl says:

    It’s difficult to pin down just one favorite tradition…I’m going to go with reading Christmas stories, whether old classics (current favorite here is “Marmion” by Sir Walter Scott) or new ones (current reads are “Knit the Season” by Kate Jacobs and “Three Wise Cats” by Konstantelos/Jenkins-Brady).

    Merry Christmas all!

  41. Billy says:

    For me it’s about walking through the woods with my axe and finding that one young cedar tree to take home and decorate with pepperming canes. My Granny and Grandpa did this every Christmas while I was growing up.

  42. Julie Harward says:


  43. Myrna Mackenzie says:

    A lot of our traditions have changed during the past couple of years with my sons both being grown or almost grown. But they’ll both be back for the holiday itself and one tradition never changes. We all have a meal together and then drive to neighboring towns to look at their lights and decorations. Then home for a fire, peppermint ice cream and sharing conversation.

  44. Abhaya says:

    Lights, for me it is alot about the twinkling lights in a room with only the woodstove crackling. Lots of candles and the fragrance of Christmas tree in the house.

  45. Jo says:

    We always enjoy the Christmas cartoons that come on each year….Charlie Brown, The Meiser Brothers (lol), etc…we have two young sons 8 & 11. We also go to church every year on Christmas Eve. We drive around and look at everyone’s Christmas lights. The boys open their gifts from us on Christmas morning.

    Those are a few things we do each year.

  46. Amber says:

    I have to hear Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song”, whether it be in line at the grocery store, or on the radio or in a hotel lobby. When I hear that song for the first time in the season then it is officially Christmas for me.

  47. 5kathleen2 says:

    We decorate our tree with ornaments we have collected over the years…each one has a story and lots belong to my son and daughter when they have their own families and tree. My parents join us for the week and we always watch Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story to kick things off on Christmas Eve. Christmas dinner is always Prime Rib and trimmings. I am hoping for a white Christmas this year! My son is living in Sydney Australia and we will be missing him. :snowman:

  48. quietstorm says:

    Im the keeper of my grandmothers cookie press, so I have to make oodles of spritz cookies like she used to do – they have overtaken my kitchen this year! Already took one large tin to work last week and have 3 tins ready to ship out tomorrow along with bags of homemade heath bars and chocolate peppermint marshmallows for hot chocolate – Thank you Suzanne!

  49. Debbie in PA says:

    Our tradition has been to drive around in our jammies (well, the kids anyway) on christmas eve looking at people’s outdoor decorations. we listening to Christmas music, drink cocoa, and eat cookies en route. I am hoping the kids will never outgrow this!!!

  50. sondra says:

    There are some things my family does every year without fail. (1) Put a blue striped candy cane from my childhood on our tree. (2) Make candy cane cookies like my mother made in the 50’s (3) Christmas eve we have Mocha Punch, cookies, a cheese ball and crackers, and read the real Christmas story.

  51. SuzieQ says:

    Each year I give my granddaughters, and this year my GREAT granddaughter, a new Christmas ornament from their Nana. I have to watch Christmas Vacation, Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, and A Christmas Story. AND my son-in-law and I have to make the required cheese/sausage balls…if we missed this ritual he just might expire from frustration. Finally on Christmas eve I sit by the woodstove, all the lights down except for the tree, give the dogs a treat from Santa Paws, have myself a glass of something bubbly and drink a toast to my wonderful family. Finally I send my love to my husband and wish he could have lived to see these girls grow up. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. I’ve so enjoyed reading all the traditions from you all.

  52. Gini says:

    I have to listen to Nat King Cole sing twenty wonderful Christmas songs. I’ve done it since I was 6!

  53. mommafox says:

    Our longest, continuous Christmas tradition is the hanging and opening of the kid’s Christmas stockings. They started out as small anklets or sports socks. Now they are big honking knitted ones that my daughter knitted for everyone. They are the first thing looked at early Christmas morning, even before breakfast. The ages of our KIDS? 48,45, and 40 :sheepjump: I guess there are times to be glad they didn’t grow up :happyflower:

  54. BuckeyeGirl says:

    heh, mammafox, that’s funny! I guess this is the time of year it pays to be a kid no matter what your age is. A good friend always tells me that growing older is mandatory, growing up is optional.

  55. josie9395s says:

    Broken Kid(14) demands a Gingerbread House each year and we always have to read Twas The Night Before Christmas. Our tree looks like it could catch fire because Dad likes lots of lights. Teenager(16) just hangs around snarfing up the cookies and candies. I used to hate Christmas but Broken Kid and Dad have changed that. Especially when Broken Kid wakes us up at 4 am because he is so excited about Christmas. What’s not to love when you see that much joy on his face?

    Oh today was the first day that Broken Kid has been to school in a month. Want to know what I did on my first day alone? I have spent the last two and a half hours playing around on your website!

  56. Gert Hubbard says:

    This is wonderful for someone (like Me) who hasnt been a member very long…..Thank you for walking and updated your life..I love it….
    Merry Christmas :wave:

  57. Emily says:

    I know you said it wasn’t fair to say being with family. When I was young my life was full of “had too’s”, “must’s”, and “it’s just not Christmas unless’s”. In the last decade though there has never been a year that tradition could be formed for my family. Through sickness, loss of family, financial turmoil, and this last year being basically homeless, what makes Christmas for me is being with family. There is nothing else to count on, nothing else that is consistant. Talking and laughing with my sisters, hugging my Nana and hoping it’s not the last time, sitting around the table having philisophical religous and political debates, and just resting in the warmth of a full house of poeple I love and who love me…no matter what.

  58. Ms E says:

    The hunt for galax!

  59. Nannette Saunders says:

    Christmas is going out & getting the Christmas tree at the Christmas tree farm. Every year it is different. Sometimes it takes us a long time to get one & sometimes the perfect tree jumps right out at us. This year my sons girlfriend went with us. She had never gone to get a Christmas tree before and wore black pumps. A really bad idea since there was so much rain the Christmas tree farm was very muddy. And of course I had to video the whole process. This meant that her lack of planning would show up on the internet. She didn’t realize that getting involved with this family may mean a lot of tagging on facebook and posting on the internet. Should I get her to sign a disclaimer or a waiver? If she hangs around long enough she’ll get use to it.

  60. Jana says:

    It’s Christmas when I hear Elvis singing “Blue Christmas”. My dad has an Elvis Christmas Album (the actual LP) and when we were kids (my two sisters and I) every Christmas morning whenever Elvis started singing “Blue Christmas” we knew it was time to get up and see what Santa brought. The first Christmas after I moved out, I searched on-line until I found the CD of the exact album my dad has and that’s usually the first Christmas CD I play each year. 🙂

  61. Karen Anne says:

    I wound up reading The Slanted Little House Post. What happened with the kitten stuck in the dashboard? You wrote the neighbors “tried” to get him out…

  62. mtngirljon says:

    Thanks for this post. This is the third year that I’ve been living with family and haven’t been able to observe my own traditions after 30 years of having my own place. All my ornaments and special things are in storage. I always loved putting up my tree with all the special ornaments collected over the years. Some belong to my son and he’ll take them when he gets in a place where he has his own tree. A lot of them were made either by me or friends who are special to me. I really miss seeing and touching them. It’s cool to read here about the special traditions that everyone has. I might have to try making dough ornaments. That’s one thing I haven’t done yet. Bright blessings to you all!

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