Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Rituals - Kathleen O'Brien

I should know better than to agree to turn in a book right before Christmas. I try to stick to my working schedule. I really do. But, for me, the month of December is never long enough. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and we have so many little rituals we have to fit into those three and a half weeks.

First, of course, there’s the tree-trimming and house decorating. Though we don’t go crazy, we do like to gather the whole family and put on the music and make it a party. There are at least three different houses to decorate, now that the “kids” have their own places. So it gets complicated!

Then, there’s the Mount Dora adventure  that my daughter and I share each year. Mount Dora is a picturesque little lake community not far from where we live. We wander down the quaint downtown streets, stopping at our three or four favorite stores, and then we overeat horribly at the delicious English Tea Room. Half the fun is the drive itself, about forty-five minutes of silly talk, word games, and carols on the CD.

And if we don’t find time to work in a family viewing of “White Christmas,”  it just doesn’t feel right. We all make the same comments every year. I tear up over “Count Your Blessings,” making everyone groan. We argue over whether the dance bits are too long. The cynics complain that Bing Crosby is making a mistake by talking about his former general’s troubles on TV. Someone inevitably cringes at Vera Allen’s super skinny legs.

But we’re all on the same page—pure, sappy delight—when the finale begins. We smile or squee (depending, generally on our gender ) as the lodge doors open onto snow, and designer Edith Head’s red velvet, fur-lined dresses sway and glisten under the lights.

Luckily, my editor understands the call to family this season brings, and she’s offered me a short extension on the manuscript I owe her. So, though I’ll still be writing every day, I’ll have some breathing room for our most beloved holiday rituals.

What about you? Is there something your family does every year that you just can’t give up? Do you have a favorite holiday film that you never get sick of? A great recipe to share? I’d love to hear what you’re doing this December. I haven’t a minute to spare, truly, but…come on…tempt me!

And meanwhile, Happy Holidays to everyone! May your new year bring you peace, joy, health and love.


Nas said...

Hi Kathleen, you've put up some very nice pictures! Thanks for sharing. And do take some "me time" for relaxing through this busy season.

Season's Greetings to you and yours!

ev said...

White Christmas is a mandatory for me too. It's one of my favorites and if I miss it on tv, I get upset. Which is why I bought a blue ray copy for myself this year.

Let's see. I do the shopping, he pays the bills. I put up the oustide stuff just after Halloween, so I don't fall off an icy ladder, he pretends to grumble about the cost of electricty. I decorate the tree and he admires it. I make him clean up the bookshelves so I can put up my snow man collection. Then he has to clean his mess of 11 months off the diningroom table so we can actually use it.

Typical stuff.

runner10 said...

I love putting up our Christmas trees as a family. We watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. It feels so good to laugh.
Hope you have a Merry Christmas.

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Nas, thank you so much! In a way, the whole holiday season feels like "me" time--even the work! I hope you and yours have a lovely December, too!

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Ev, I'm still laughing! Is Christmas the same all over? For me, it's a Snow Baby collection, and I use the piano, because finding a clear surface is pretty darn difficult around here, too! :)

And isn't White Christmas wonderful? I just never get tired of it.

I hope your Christmas is fabulous--and that no one falls off that ladder!

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Runner, we love NL's Christmas Vacation, too, although I have to admit I find the part about the bonus very stressful. LOL...I'm such a softie, but I also know how often Christmas can be stressful for parents who want to do more for their families than they can.'s so hilarious I get over it and just enjoy. The outdoor lights scene is a classic!

Thanks for stopping by, and for sharing. I hope your family has much joy this Christmas, too!

Terry Odell said...

Hi, Kathleen

Here's a recipe that makes our holiday.

It's at the end of the post.

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

desere_steenberg said...

Hello Kathleen

I hope you are doing well and I agree with Nas you must take some "me time" !

I just love putting up the christmas tree with my son we have so much fun doing it together , he is only 5 and hangs the decorations and ornaments in all the unusual spots and the tree looks like something out of a cartoon but either way I love it. It is our very own creation !

We watch the Home Alone movies they are all so funny and really teaches a important message too about christmas being about togetherness as a family and not about gifts etc .

And then there is the joy of sitting outside in the garden watching the lights we have up on the outside! Christmas recipe is yummy hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows mmmmmh yum !!

Your pictures look great ! Have a great day and happy holidays to you and your family !!


Kathleen O'Brien said...

Terry! Shame on you. Now you've made it even more difficult for me to stick to either my deadline OR my diet! :) Seriously, that looks delicious, and I can't wait to give it a try! Thanks so much for sharing!

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Desere, you've painted such an incredibly lovely picture of Christmas at your house! I remember those days of kid-decorated trees so well, and with so much joy. I have a darling picture of my son somewhere, romping around the family room wearing nothing but diapers and a tangle of tree lights. I'd dig it out and include it, but I'm not sure he'd ever forgive me!

Thank you so, so much for coming by and describing your Christmas rituals. I felt a little glow just reading about it. May this season be perfect for you and yours!

desere_steenberg said...

You are very welcome Kathleen and thank you so very much for your kind words !!

Have a great day


Pat Cochran said...

Included on our list of activities
for December: Singing in the Midnight
Mass Choir(including all the many rehearsals), all parish holiday get-
togethers, and lots of family parties
(from extended family to immediate
family!) Merry Christmas!

Pat Cochran

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Pat, how wonderful that you sing in the choir at Midnight Mass! I love the Christmas Eve services, and it's the one place I feel comfortable letting my off-key voice loose on the world! :)

I bet the rehearsals keep you super busy, though! Do you have a favorite Christmas song?

Hope it's all perfect for your and yours this year! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog!

Meg said...

I LURVE Christmas cookies - or any cookie - so while I'm wrapping presents, I gift myself with my faves and listen to Christmas music. Always makes that chore brighter!!

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Excellent idea, Meg! I had thought of the Christmas music...I *always* remember the Christmas music. :) But I hadn't focused on how awesome it would be to also have a plate of yummy cookies nearby, too! Do you make your own, like our overachieving buddy Nancy? Or do you get storebought? Publix has some cookie platters that are guaranteed to put a smile on my face!

I'm so glad you came by the blog. Merry Christmas to you and yours! And try to stay warm in all that snow!

Michele L. said...

Hi Kathleen!

I love the picture of you on this post! You look so radiant!

My husband and I just love going around and looking at all the holiday lights. Where we live there is a park close by that absolutely goes overboard with lights, decorations, moving decorations, etc. that is a must for us to go see at this time of year.

We usually have the same ole converation every year, that we are going to put up the tree after Thanksgiving. That never happens, sigh. Usually our tree goes up a few days before Christmas and if I am lucky along with decorations around the house. I don't why but it always seems like I never have time to decorate at Christmas because work is always hectic at this time, stuff with my mom, stuff with friends, etc. that I always get behind on decorating.

Anyhow, have a wonderful holiday! My most favorite things to watch on tv are the Christmas cartoons that always remind me of when I was a kid and had that excitement of Christmas coming. Hallmark movies are always a treat too!

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Michele, thank you for the sweet comment about the picture. It's one of those, hold the camera as far from your face as you can get, then snap and hope for the best shots! :) I keep meaning to get a new *real* publicity shot, but there's never time. As with so many things! :)

It's so true about Christmas, isn't it? The time just gets away from us! You're so brave to put it up anyhow, though. I'm always afraid that if I wait too long I might just say, oh, what the heck, and never do it! Besides, sounds to me like stuff with your mom and friends is tons more important than when exactly the tree goes up!

Thanks so much for coming by and sharing your Christmas cheer! I know what you mean about the cartoons from earlier days. Did you like Rudolph? I love that one!

Have a wonderful, fun-filled holiday, Michele! See you in the new year!

Pat Cochran said...


My favorite "standard" is "O Holy
Night." Among the newer favorites:
"Our Brother Now, By Birth."
And yes, lots of rehearsals!

Pat C.

Mary Anne Landers said...

Hi Kathleen! I can't resist reading and commenting on your posts. So even though I don't celebrate Christmas, I simply must say something!

Yes, I really dig "White Christmas". It's not only my favorite holiday movie; it's one of my favorite movies, period.

And we mustn't forget "It's a Wonderful Life", another film frequently shown and viewed this time of year. Its detractors can't stand it because it's so gooey sweet and sentimental. Its fans love it because it's so gooey sweet and sentimental. Guess which camp I fall into.

My two favorite carols are "The Cherry Tree Carol" and "The Holly and the Ivy". Both are real blasts from the past. They date from the Middle Ages, and the first is based on a story from the Apocrypha. The words and melodies were both composed by that most prolific of medieval songwriters, Anonymous.

As for season rituals, I'm doing anything to keep warm! That includes lots of cuddling with Spartacus and Farrah, my cats.

It's bitterly cold here in Arkansas, but there's no snow or ice yet. It'll be our turn soon enough.

Hope you get your manuscripts to your editor in time. Keep up the good work!

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Hi, Mary Anne! How cool that you're a "White Christmas" fan, too! I think it's on my top ten list of movies of any kind, probably right behind "High Society." Guess I just love Bing's voice!

And hurray for gooey and sweet! :) How anyone could ever be *too* happy escapes me! I was brought up to believe that the person who can understand the most points of view, appreciate the most things, and enjoy the most of life *wins*!

Cuddling the kitties sounds wonderful. Mine won't exactly do that, but she does curl up on my lap when I'm being quiet and still. It's her gift to me, and she expects me to fully appreciate it, which I do!

Have a wonderful season!

Kathleen O'Brien said...

Hi, again, everyone! Thanks to everyone for stopping by!

Just wanted to announce the book winners!

This time, Desere, Michele and Runner10 have won--and if you guys will get me your snail mail addresses, I'll be glad to send you the book of your choice from my backlist.

If you need to refresh your memory about my titles, please go to my website,, and check out my "books" page. Then sent your address to me by email, at

Only "The Redemption of Matthew Quinn" and "Happily Never After" are completely unavailable.

Hope to hear from you soon! I hope you all have a fantastic, joy-filled Christmas!

desere_steenberg said...

Hello Kathleen

Wow I am a winner this is so amazing!! Thank you so much for the great contest and thank you for selecting me as one of the winners!!

I have emailed you my choice and my snail mail address to I hope you have received it.

Thank you again for everything and Merry Christmas to you and your family and all of the very best for the new year !


Michele L. said...

Holy Cow! Thanks Kathleen! I will go look at your backlist and will e-mail you shortly.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

ev said...

No one fell off any ladders, but my big blow up Santa won't stand up straight no matter what I do.

My neighbor tells me he's drunk. The Santa, not the neighbor. That's a whole nother story