Despite beginning the countdown by opening the first advent calendar door on December 1st, I don’t really start to feel into the idea of Christmas until a week or so later, St Nicholas’ Day. Mikey wakes that morning to find the boots that he left out the night prior have been filled with chocolate coins. It’s a little tradition that we picked up while we lived in Germany and we decided to incorporate into our own celebration partly as a way of remembering those lovely Christmas seasons we spent in Germany when Mikey was small.
To get us a little more into the spirit of things, the Chicago Holiday Train ran through our neighbourhood last week. We caught the final Brown Line train on Saturday afternoon, packed with people and beautifully decorated with tinsel and lights. We alighted the train a few stops later, stopping briefly on the wooden platform to watch as it drew away from the station. Where the middle car should have been, as the train passed, Mikey caught sight of Santa waving from his sleigh.
Sunday brought us bright, fluffy snow, it was impossible to resist the lure of it. In the early afternoon we wrapped ourselves warmly and left the apartment to visit a nearby Irish Christmas market for a little while, inspecting freshly cut Christmas trees and listening to carollers. On our way home we kicked our way through deepening snow and stopped outside our apartment building for a snowball fight.
There wasn’t yet enough snow to build a snowman, of course that didn’t dissuade us from trying. After a failed attempt at pulling together a snowman’s body, Mikey jumped into the middle of the pile and threw a snowball right at me. We chased one another outside until we were tired; Mikey’s nose and cheeks red from the exertion and cold.
Once back inside the apartment, we stripped off our snow-covered layers and hung them out to dry on the dining room radiators. I filled the kettle to make french press coffee and as it began to boil the radiators in the apartment spluttered, rattled, kicked on, so that both were warming us and whistling in unison.
Mikey settled in beneath a blanket to look through a book from school about penguins and polar bears, and to watch cartoons. My husband and I sipped on Christmas blend coffee as we watched the window and yet more snow falling. I could smell the strong smell of wood smoke from the fires at the Irish market on my hair.