Ellen Hopkins is the New York Times Bestselling author of Crank, Burned, Impulse, Glass, Identical, Tricks, Fallout, Triangles, Perfect, Collateral and out Book of the Month, Tilt. Find out more about Ellen Hopkins on her website!
Casa Hopkins Holiday Traditions
I often say I’ve lived several lifetimes within my lifetime, and I think that’s a fair statement. Over the years, I’ve lived cherished. Abused. Respected. Neglected. Prosperous. Poor. But always, the Christmas season brought me joy and comfort, giftwrapped, if you will, in recollection of childhood celebrations. And I was determined, whatever my current circumstance, to create beautiful holiday memories for my own children.
First of all, we do celebrate Christmas, both the Santa kind and the baby-in-a-manger kind. I like blending the two, so my Courier & Ives Christmas village has a nativity in it. And the angel tree topper looks down on the large collection of Disney and Sesame Street ornaments I’ve collected over the years. Plus, a few of the kids’ handmade ornaments remain. One year, daughter Kelly insisted we make angels, of all kinds. Another, we made felt ornaments—penguins and swans with holiday bows still decorate our tree, a reminder of leaner years.
We always cut our trees fresh. Sometimes from cut-your-own lots on the far side of the Sierra, near the wineries where we purchase our Yule wines. Other times we travel a bit farther, up into the mountains northwest of Reno, where we traipse through evergreen forests to find just the right tree. Either way, we make a day of it, take a picnic lunch and enjoy the cool blue December air.
I’m big on decorations. Outside lights? Check. Inside tinsel on banisters and railings? Check. Poinsettias. Nutcrackers. Lights on the windows. Small artificial trees in the living room and family room. A huge real tree in our front entryway, where the ceiling is really tall. This is a newer tradition, as our house was much smaller just four years ago. But I love having a gorgeous tree be the first thing you see when you come in the front door. It’s a welcome, to family and guests.
Christmas Eve, we go to church. I sing alto in the choir, which is smallish and needs every voice. Before the service, we go out to dinner so when we get home there aren’t dishes to deal with. Instead, once the kids are all in bed (okay, my kids are grown, but now there are grandkids!), out come the “Santa” gifts. Wrapped in special Santa paper. One of the saddest things ever is when a child loses belief in Santa. Or anything magical.
Christmas morning, the big tradition is homemade (from scratch, with yeast and honey and real butter) cinnamon rolls. Plus butcher shop bacon. I tried to get away without making the rolls one year and my daughter freaked. So, like it or not, every year, I’m up way before the rest of the family, mixing and kneading and waiting for sweet dough to rise. Then it’s presents. Football. Playing with the new toys while waiting for guests to arrive. Besides family, we open our house to friends who might otherwise spend Christmas alone. Dinner is prime rib, followed with gingerbread, eggnog and, of course, pie.
Over the years, my kids and their families have scattered, but they always come home to Casa Hopkins for the holidays. It’s a crazy time, but joyous. And made all the more so because of our traditions and the beautiful memories we’ve created together. I wish the same for every one of you!