With the garden tucked in for the year and the long nights of winter for company, we are in the midst of Christmas preparation and enjoyment. In the early days of winter, when one anxiously awaits the first fall of snow, long before Christmas day’s much-anticipated arrival, the excitement of Christmas can be felt in the air.
Christmas lasted much longer than just twelve days for Tasha, and good thing too, as there was much to be done! Tasha celebrated Christmas over the course of a month, beginning with the lighting of the Advent wreath for Saint Nicholas tea on December sixth.
Leading up to Christmas day when the Christmas tree would be decorated with inherited heirloom kugel ornaments, handmade gingerbread ornaments, and real candles Tasha had dipped herself, Tasha’s kitchen would be bustling as she made Dundee Cakes and boxes of sugar cookies for friends and business acquaintances. Presents too were started well in advance, as Tasha made many things by hand and even the children had presents and simple Christmas cards to make.
But even before the Advent calendar was brought out, Tasha would begin preparing for Christmas. Each year, having enjoyed the summer months engrossed by her garden, Tasha would work steadily to paint the year’s Christmas cards—ten to fifteen new ones every year.
These cards remain detailed paintings of life during the holidays: children frolic with corgis or cats, making the most of the Christmas season and occasionally causing mischief, but the cards also reflect the opportunities for quiet reflection the season offers. Each set of illustrations included not only the joy of giving and receiving, but a Creche scene or another moment of religious significance.
The Christmas season is a time for visiting friends, new and old. This includes our favorite characters who have spent the year on the bookshelf, friends like Hans Christian Andersen’s Fir Tree who, taking “no pleasure in the sunshine or the birds or the pink clouds that, morning and evening, went sailing overhead” longed for Christmas, or Charles Dickens’s limping Tiny Tim who wished for God to “bless us everyone.” Tasha collected these favorites along with carols and poems in her Christmas book Take Joy, the title poem of which reads:
“The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet, within our reach, is joy. Take Joy.”
This is our wish for you this holiday season, whether you are baking or making or simply enjoying friends: Take joy.