My favorite Christmas memories are about being with my family. My parents always created a magical time of year, complete with sparkly tree, days of cooking favorite sweet and spicy treats, and, of course, gifts on Christmas Day. There was usually some project that took more time than anticipated and probably drove my mother crazy as we commandeered space she needed to do the real preparations for guests. Two projects that I remember in particular were making pine cone wreaths – incredibly messy – and creating all sorts of gingerbread projects, including the one pictured here. When I was a child, my mother’s cousins hosted a party on Christmas eve that to my young eyes was the height of sophistication. Technically I viewed the main event from the children’s party in their ‘rec room’. I have such clear memories that there must have been a lot of peeking and dashes into the main party to ask my parents a question of great importance. Looking back, I think that this was a heroic feat on their part the night before Christmas day – when they also served an amazing dinner for many guests! I lived in a small town and have fond memories of the Christmas parade (as a high school student in band I also remember it being very cold some years) and of special church services and caroling. My husband grew up in Europe and his memories have a greater sense of ‘the town’. Christmas markets filed the streets of Vienna, Austria and Lausanne, Gruyere, and Fribourg in Switzerland, the places where he spent most of his youth. Handcrafted ornaments and other decorations were displayed in abundance alongside mulled wine and roasted chestnuts. In Fribourg, the festival of Saint Nicolas was – and still is – a huge event. Held the first weekend in December, Saint Nicolas, the patron saint of the town, is mounted on a donkey and leads a cortege through the streets to the gallery of the cathedral. From his position high above the crowd he then makes his remarks. Thousands of people gather for the event, a true community celebration for all ages. To this day my husband’s friends who still live in Fribourg reunite for a fondue after the parade, and when we are there it is a true highlight of the season. I should confess that as I write this I am thinking…. hmmm maybe there is a short story in this.: Death at Saint Nicolas. The mere idea may get me banned from the festival…. What are your fondest holiday traditions? Any story ideas in them?