Friends, I have a question to ask you: How many times do you have to repeat an experience in order for it to be called a tradition?
I took to the social media outlets to pose the question to the masses, and I received a variety of responses. Five years was a common answer, some thought as many as ten, a few people said you simply had to repeat something once to declare it a tradition, but I think my favorite theory (and the one I will adopt) is the idea where as long as you have the intention to repeat an experience you can call it a tradition.
So by this logic Jürgen and I have created our very own holiday tradition.
The tradition began last year, when we were deciding what to do about our Christmas tree. We wanted to cut down our own, and while at work I was struck with the (rather brilliant I think) idea to drive out to a Christmas tree farm in DeKalb, IL followed by a visit to Two Brothers Brewing Company, after which we would come home, decorate, and eat dinner while watching It’s A Wonderful Life…also known as the best holiday movie of all time.
I was so excited about this idea.
I think a little back story is in order here.
My love for Christmas tree’s stems from my love of Christmas ornaments. I collect them you see, and have been since I graduated college. Any time I travel someplace new, an ornament (or two or three) makes its way into my suitcase. If I visit an interesting museum (and ya’ll know I like my museums), I will pick up an ornament to commemorate the experience. Family members will bring me ornaments back from their travels as well, so every year when I decorate my tree every ornament has a story attached to it.
I take my tree decorating very seriously, and therefore I take my tree just as seriously.
For our first Christmas together (2009) we were living in Queens, with very little money, and decided not to have a tree that year. In a momentary stroke of genius my brother and I decided to construct a paper christmas tree, which I then left up for the duration of our time in that apartment. The following year we were living in different cities and due to a busy travel schedule I decided, sadly, not to have a tree. So last year when we were finally living together again there was no questioning it, we were going to get the most spectacular tree we could find.
So we did.
And we followed through on my plan. We stopped by Two Brothers for some grub and some booze, and we ended the night with George Bailey running through the streets of Bedford Falls. It was a fantastic day, and the beginning of our new holiday tradition.
Well, this year we have found ourselves unexpectedly in Kansas City, but that wasn’t going to rain on our traditions parade. After a little research I came upon a Christmas tree farm just outside of Lawrence, Kansas and, as luck would have it, Lawrence is home to the oldest brewery in the state of Kansas, Free State. A date was set, a tradition lived on.
Lawrence is about a forty minute drive from where we are in Overland Park, making it an easy day trip destination. I made holiday music mandatory for the entire car ride, because…well…I am somewhat of a dictator. Really I was just excited to get the holiday spirits flown’.
Our first stop when we arrived in Lawrence was Wheatfield’s Bakery. A locally owned, and highly regarded, Lawrence bakery which features a variety of breads all handcrafted from Kansas wheat.
We picked up two herb and cheese scones to full our stomachs with sustenance for our day of holiday cheer. The scones were surprisingly fluffy, with a subtle hint of rosemary, which I quite enjoyed.
The University of Kansas, also known as KU, also known as the school which came in second during the NCAA Men’s Basketball finals to the University of Kentucky Wildcats last year (go Big Blue!), makes it’s home in Lawrence. It only felt right to pay the campus a visit.
We stayed in the main quad of the campus and took in the sights, and the people who all looked so young. It was slightly unnerving. But a beautiful campus nonetheless.
Settlers travelling west along the Oregon Trail, crossed over the land which is now the KU Campus. They had a rock commemorating their adventure.
We then headed back to the main drag of Lawrence, Massachusetts Avenue which is lined with all sorts of adorable shops, cafés and restaurants. It’s one of those streets where the minute you step on it, you feel as if you have been transported back fifty years in time.
Lampposts decorated with red velvet bows and festive greenery dot each corner.
Locally owned businesses have retained their small town charm selling unique gifts, specialty food items, and work from various area artists.
Oh and then there is also the old school movie theatre which is now an Urban Outfitters. Can’t win em’ all.
Keeping with our holiday tradition we went to Free State Brewery for lunch, which is clearly quite a popular spot for the lunchtime crowd.
We ordered tasting portions of five of their drafts: Winterfest IPA, Northern Lights IPA, Black Jack Porter, Invigorator Doppel Bock (my favorite), and the Thunderhead Pale Ale.
Following lunch it was time for the main event: cutting down our tree! Except that upon arriving at the tree farm we learned they had experienced a bad bout of inclement weather several years ago, decimating their crop, and the trees that they do have aren’t old enough to be cut down yet. So, they had a wider variety of pre-cut trees to purchase instead. Was it a slight disappointment to miss out on the rustic tree cutting experience? Yes. But, we still went to a tree farm with the intent to cut down a tree, so it feels right. It’s my tradition, I can bend the rules if I want to.
We settled on a lovely six-foot tall Scotch Pine. The folks at the Strawberry Hill Christmas Tree Farm were as friendly as can be and very helpful during the selection process. I have no doubt they will have lovely trees in a few years.
Once home it was time to bust out the ornaments and get to decorating. Being away from home this year, I was unable to bring all of my entire collection, but I did pack a small box of ornaments which I knew would travel well..by this I mean they aren’t made of glass. It’s nice to have a small piece of home while we are away for the holidays.
For dinner we kept it simple with some pizza from Minsky’s and a bottle of Frog’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon while we watched Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed fall in love. Friends, I ask you, is there any better acting than Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life? I think not.
Also, I literally start crying the minute the film starts. Get’s me every time.
And there you have it, a family tradition has begun. Do you have any traditions you have started? Any old school family favorites?