371: Savoring A Quiet Christmas — Simple, Yet Significant
Wednesday December 20, 2023

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Whether or not snow has fallen come December, the warmth and cheer of good tidings appearing about town, the neighbors, in the shops and arriving in the mail by way of the annual Christmas cards sent from friends and family living near and far always wraps me in a figurative hug.

This year, similar to last year, I will be spending Christmas at home in Bend, Oregon, and it is exactly where I want to be. And leading up to the festive day has been and will continue to be sprinkled with intentional activities, pastimes and nibbles that create a festive, cozy atmosphere I feel most fortunate to be able to savor.

Each of us will go through seasons in our lives, stepping out of old chapters and into new ones when we embrace our courage to welcome what is awaiting to be given to us, and such is the case for me that I am delighting in quiet Christmases.

As Nigel Slater eloquently writes in The Christmas Chronicles, in his delicious, image evoking prose, “Christmas is celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike. It is a cultural event as much as a religious one”. I share the rest of the quote in last year’s holiday episode – #347 if you want to have a look, but part of why Christmas and the entirety of November and December is treasured by so many is that it is celebrated around the world and it is celebrated by people of a variety of different beliefs or non-beliefs, and that is a reason to smile and appreciate the season all the more.

Perhaps inspired a bit by Beth Kempton’s beloved book that I know many TSLL readers have enjoyed and return to reading each November and December, and adding to the list shared last year, episode #347, that included 9 Ways to Savor Christmas at Home, Alone, Simply Luxuriously, I wanted to share today’s episode of how to savor a quiet Christmas with as few or as many people as you desire, and reveal how these thoughtful ways to enjoy this special time of year, while not extravagant, complex or even requiring money, can bring a deep richness to the season, making it all the more special.

Let’s take a look at the list.

1.Find, play and enjoy favorite holiday playlists and play in just the perfect amounts throughout the season

Playing holiday music non-stop may be your preferred approach or you may like a slow drip ofChristmas and holiday music throughout your days, routines and activities throughout the season. Whichever or whatever is your jam, you do you, and savor, savor, savor.

2. Bake favorites in the kitchen gradually throughout the holiday season

Making a few of the special holiday treats that are only made once a year makes for a special occasion in the kitchen, and to make sure it never feels like a chore or a must-do, take a look at your calendar and choose a day that is wide open so that you can enjoy this seasonal baking or cooking occasion.

Beginning a few year ago, making a Christmas Stollen each year has become part of my holiday traditions, and as the recipe makes multiple loaves of this special German bake, I happily share it with a few of my neighbors.


Watch the video to discover how you can make a Christmas Stollen. It’s easier than it sounds.

Make is most delicious, decadent, yet light Bûche de Noël, gluten free. Adapted from French patisserier Dominique Ansel. Episode #7 of Season 6, The Simply Luxurious Kitchen cooking show.

3. Deliver something homemade or thoughtfully considered as gifts to give to close, everyday acquaintances

A tradition I love to partake in and one that continues to grow as far as how many people I am delivering goodies to and receiving them from solely in my neighborhood is giving homemade cookies or goods to those people in our life that while they may not be intimate relationships, they are vital relationships – neighbors, our children’s teachers, the mail carriers/newspaper deliverers, etc. – anyone whose kindness, efforts and time shared in our lives is appreciated.

This year, my new recipe, Grasmere Gingerbread, adapting Sarah Nelson’s famous gingerbread, was an easy choice. Absolutely delicious and full of gingery spice.


4. Light the candles, mind the scent

Because we are inside so much this time of year, adding a soft light from a candle or candles, becomes all the more special. And also because we are inside far more than out, and the windows and doors are tightly closed, it is important to choose candles that if they do offer a scent, are well loved by all those who will be spending time in our home. Typically, I simply choose beeswax or vegan soy-based candles without a scent, but if I do have a scent, I choose as natural and gentle as possible. Check out my favorite French candle brands here.


5. Step outside into the snow, away from the human-made festivities and into the wilderness

Having the opportunity in Bend to be near where the snow may fall if it doesn’t fall in town is a gift in and of itself, and so if you have the chance, bundle up and step away from the city/town and into the quiet of Mother Nature. Savor the natural beauty, take your time to look about and enjoy the crunch of the snow and the crisp air. And don’t forget to bring your four-legged companions as well!


6. Celebrate the winter solstice

With the arrival of the shortest day of the year on December 21st, including time and awareness of this reality of days beginning to gradually gain daylight as we step into December 22nd, it is a wonderful time of year to celebrate an opportunity for growth, a deeper understanding of our inner true self. As we step forward into both a new year and longer days, why not view what is to come as an opportunity to apply all that we have learned and bring what is possible regarding our capabilities and a more grounded and aware way of being to the world. I think what we will discover is more to appreciate, more to savor and more to enjoy in the days to come if we do.

Perhaps you have a ritual you would like to partake in or already have been doing for many years. The winter solstice, attached solely to the turn of the earth around the sun, is a wonderful observance to make as we too evolve should we so choose.

7. Visit favorite haunts for a taste of the bustle of the season

Even though I do prefer a quiet Christmas, I also enjoy visiting my favorite shops, bakeries, and such to be amongst the festive energy. Perhaps it is a bookshop or a skating rink, wherever you enjoy going that is away from home that attracts many people, carve out time to go when you are not in a hurry, and just savor the holiday decorations on display, the visiting friends and family and the magic that tends to dance about during this time of year.


8. Delight in unexpected gifts discovered

Celebrate as though they are secret Santa gifts to you and don’t hold back on your exuberance. I cannot tell you when or where they will be given, or even what they will be. In fact, only you will know as it will be a delight to you and you alone, but when the gift arrives, do not hide your glee.

Such was the case this past weekend when I popped into my favorite locally owned grocer, Newport Market, and lo and behold, they now carry my favorite French butter! I could not believe my eyes! Isigny St. Mére in Bend, Oregon! I did let my jubilation be known and my smile stretched from ear to ear. I snapped a pic and purchased more than a few to stock up.


9. Add an ornament that holds a memory to treasure

My tree is never going to be one that will look ‘perfect’ for a magazine profile, but I always love my trees when they are decorated because with each year, they hold more and more of my beloved life memories. This new bauble was added this year from Gisela Graham depicting my love of England and gardening as it is an English Robin seen here.


10. Welcome the Icelandic tradition Jolabokaflod into your Christmas Eve festivities

Translated as ‘book flood’, this Icelandic tradition began following World World II as one of the few things in abundance was paper, and ever since the annual giving of books on Christmas Eve, followed by snuggling in that evening to read the received books, paired with something warm and delicious, usually jolabland (a non-alcoholic beer) or hot chocolate, as never ceased to be a favorite, now embraced around the world.

In fact, I want to thank TSLL reader and member Nicola for first sharing that this is a tradition she and her family enjoy partaking in each Christmas Eve, and while I didn’t know it was properly known as Jolabokaflod, I loved it immediately upon hearing about it.


11. Take a neighborhood or local drive to see the holiday lights

Last weekend, after savoring our own neighborhood wassail and lights walk-about the week before, I learned of a few more neighborhoods in town that go all out in their decorations, attracting people from all over the county to slowly drive through and gaze at the festive and creative artistry. So I packed up the pups, made myself a chocolat chaud, and made sure the holiday tunes were playing and off we went! It wasn’t more than an hours drive about town, but it was beautiful, delightful fun. Even Nelle and Norman took note of some of the house’s décor. 🙂

A not-surprising inclusion, but one to definitely include on the list today as cozying in and watching or doing things that we would only do once a year is what this is all about. And that includes watching festive holiday films, new and old that bring a bit of levity as well as hope to the season, and if a mystery is solved along the way if that is our favorite genre of choice, all the better!

However you welcome a quiet Christmas into your festivities this year, wishing you a joy-filled and memorable holiday.

~Your Brain on Art: How the Arts Transforms Us by Susan Magasmen and Ivy Ross

Episode 331

~Commonplace book

~Shop Commonplace notebooks/books with lined pages at Starsmead Bookbinding


My first proper Commonplace Book, gifted to me from a dear reader who I had the opportunity to meet in England during my trip this past October, Nicola.

~Explore more episodes of The Simple Sophisticate here


9 thoughts on “371: Savoring A Quiet Christmas — Simple, Yet Significant

  1. Thank you for reminding me to savor the simple side of the holiday season. Too often I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season and fail to savor the simple beauty of the sights, sounds and flavors of this time of year. Wishing you joy as you embrace the many blessings of the season.

  2. Happy Holidays Shannon!! And wishing you a very Merry Christmas! I hope you and your doggies have fun and lots of joy.
    My husband and I have ventured out and had cocoa and stroopwaffels, a neighbor has brought us a tray of goodies, (which she has done every Christmas holiday season for 20 years), we are finishing The Crown and watching Survivor finale tonight, we have mailed and handed out Christmas cards, sent gift baskets, finished Hotel Portofino until next season. And can’t wait for All Creatures Great and Small.We will be going to neighbors house this week to decorate sugar cookies with frosting! My favorite Christmas cookie! What’s not to love this time of year?
    Anyway Shannon Merry, Merry Christmas and may you have a splendid New Year!!!
    Oh and I think we might grill steaks on Christmas Eve!

  3. Such a beautiful Christmassy snowy scene. As a girl living in the Tropics I used to daydream that it would miraculously snow on Christmas Day!! Needless to say it was just that. If it were to snow on Christmas Day that would fill me with so much joy. As the deer would leave the woodland and venture over to our fields looking for food. A beautiful sight indeed.
    Christmas nowadays seem to be frenzy of shopping and not taking the time to appreciate all the beautiful simple pleasures you’ve mentioned Shannon. I love the lead up to the day itself
    For me the joy comes from baking and making other goodies such as candles, chutneys and my favourite sloe gin and more to offer as gifts. Oh how I love the lights. France does put on an amazing display.Last week we visited 14 villages in Lower Normandy which is an hour’s drive from where I live but it was worth it to see the illuminations . It was amazing!
    This year we’re back in England with our children for a truly English celebration. We’ll be celebrating the winter solstice with friends on the 22nd. The days will start to get longer which is something to look forward to. I’m looking forward to watching the the first ever King’s Christmas speech. Although will miss hearing the reassuring voice of the late Queen. I wasn’t born when his grandfather was King so it’s a first .
    How exciting that you can source Beurre d’Isigny locally . I see the label is different to the one here and it’s in English .
    Shannon wishing you and the pups a beautiful celebration and a lightfilled 2024.
    And the same for the TSll community.
    Kameela 🌲

  4. Love, love, love your snowy images!!!! We’re having a pretty damp, wet time in the UK 🤷🏻‍♀️ (Plus ça change, eh?!). And thank you for your film list! I always turn in circles over Christmas films and never really get stuck in any. But am laid up with a lurgy so bad I just need to relax, and happy to have those film ideas. Happy Solstice! Xxx

    1. Happy solstice Krys and hope with some rest you begin to feel better soon. 😌 May these film/series will be just the right medicine. ☺️ And maybe for a special surprise our rain will turn to snow soon! ❄️☃️ Thank you for stopping by. 💛

  5. Dear Shannon, I hope that you have a tranquil Christmas. I have finished wrapping my books for tomorrow and chosen some special chocolates. For me, the joy is choosing something which the recipient is keen to dive straight into. I’m hoping for a cosy festive read. Thank you for sharing your ponderings. X

    1. Nicola,

      First I must begin by thanking you for sharing this tradition that you enjoy with your family. I truly was delighted to learn of it, and then by serendipitous chance, the talk of the Icelandic term came to be quite the trend as of late, but it was you whom I first heard about it, so thank you! Have a most wonderful and relaxing time savoring reading and nibbling. Sounds delicious and restorative in my book. Pun intended. ☺️📖

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