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Through Your Eyes

Text by: Polite Society Readers

Magic is as elusive as a butterfly- you see it one moment, but when you attempt to catch it in your hands, it slips right through, almost like a disappearing act. In our own attempt to define and understand the magic and enchantment of the winter season, we turned to our dear readers.

1. What is it that sets the mood to make your holiday season a MAGICAL time for you?

2. What are a few MAGICAL holiday traditions you and your family have kept throughout the years during the holiday season?

Here is what some of them had to say.

Nanette Steimle: Hearing the sound of Christmas music in my house, on the radio, and everywhere I go. It sets the mood almost immediately.

Rich Hoke: Cookies. Lots and lots of Christmas cookies :)

Kelly Neilson: What I love to do is a tradition that was started by my dad. We like to turn on some soft instrumental Christmas music, sit on the floor, drink hot chocolate or egg nog, and look at the lights on the Christmas tree without any other lights on. It's magical.

© Felicity Photography, Jessica Ceason Photography

Jessica Schultz: I can't narrow down one thing I love about the holiday season. I love the cold, crisp air. The smell of pine trees. Bundling up in my favorite scarves, boots, and jackets. Hot chocolate. Decorating everything. Listening to Christmas music, especially those I listened to and performed with as a child, even though it has been at least 15-20 years! The view of the mountains with fresh snow as the sun rises. Cinnamon spice pine cones. Driving to see Christmas lights. Cuddling with the man I love in front of a fire. Watching "A Christmas Story", "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and "The Muppet Christmas Carol." The Hollywood Christmas Parade, even though it has been a few years since it was last seen. Visiting Disneyland transformed into a winter wonderland. And the delicious food and treats that are being baked this time of year!

© Felicity Photography

Nancy Schultz: The Magical thing that put me into the mood for the holidays is when the city puts up all its decorations. Our small city of Brea, California adds new things every year. This year besides the twinkle lights on the trees, and a huge 10 foot Christmas tree, they have added garland across the main street intersection and life-sized, wooden nutcrackers. I was excited to see all of this go up by November 1st - not too early for me! I love it the sooner the better. Then the day after Thanksgiving, my neighbors across the street are the first to decorate their whole house with twinkle lights - eventually the rest of the neighborhood follows them. Every time I drive through our neighborhood, I love to see how creatively each family has decorated their home.

Kerstin Engelhart:. On the morning of Christmas Eve, we love to watch movies based on books from Astrid Lindgren, which are broadcast every year. Even though my siblings and I are adults now, they bring back memories from our childhood and get me in the mood for Christmas.

Ruth Saine: For me the magic of Hanukkah is that it is a holiday about a great miracle. Seeing the glow of the candles in the menorah with my family all around singing songs and playing the dreidel game makes me think about being part of something special. Something bigger than just my immediate family and close friends. Being part of a greater community. Sitting around a table full of people that I love, eating jelly doughnuts and latkes with applesauce or sour cream is a treat we don't often get. Taking the time to be with those we love, forgetting the hustle and bustle is what I appreciate most. It helps me remember to see my children as the miracles that they are. Hanukkah reminds me to appreciate the struggle and embrace the miracles in everyday life.

Jeralyn Lambourne: What puts me in the holiday spirit is when I put on my favorite Christmas CDs and go about decorating the tree and house, and wrapping presents. . . all to music! Even when I am baking goodies, I have to have on my Christmas music! I also love to have a fire in the fireplace, turn out all the lights except on the tree, and just sit in the living room and listen.

© Jessica Ceason Photography

Xanthe Villa (12 years old): My favorite family tradition is when my mom and I bake holiday treats. We make decorated sugar cookies, peppermint brownies, snowflake cake balls, caramels, peanut brittle, truffles, etc. We have been carrying on this tradition for so many years, it's hard to remember all the baked goodies we've made. Then we give them to our teachers, to our family and friends, to our neighbors when we go caroling on Christmas Eve, and we have also been known to secretly leave them on our people's doorsteps. Of course, we have to save three for the little kids to leave for Santa to eat on Christmas Eve. I also love when my Grandma lets us help her decorate the Christmas tree.

Jacque Watene: My favorites??? Watching "Christmas Vacation" and "A Christmas Story" with my family, eating homemade sweets and hot chocolate, reading "A Christmas Carol" to my children, scarves and mittens, pine in the air, and my lovely Christmas tree!!!

Dianne Ingram: Christmas is my family's most favorite time of year. We have started many traditions when our 11 children were young. But now that they are all grown up and have children of their own, it's fun to see the traditions they are carrying on from their childhoods with their own little families. We always start out the season finding a beautiful, fresh Christmas tree. We drive quite a distance to our son-in-law's Christmas tree lot, listening to the new Christmas CD my husband has created for that year. This outing is definitely the perfect beginning to a great holiday season.

© Jessica Ceason Photography

Xoe Villa (12 years old): I can't wait for Christmas Eve, especially when we're all together with my cousins at Grammy and Grandpa's house. We eat a big dinner with all the family, maybe 40 of them, and then take any baked goodies we have to go caroling at our neighbors' house. When we come back, the adults watch the children perform the nativity scene, and then we sing Christmas carols while sipping hot cider and hot chocolate. If someone wants to perform a Christmas song or talent, they can do that, too. My Grammy reads us a Christmas story, like The Three Trees or The Christmas Miracle. Then we all open a special present from Grammy with brand new pajamas to sleep in, and exchange presents with a cousin whose name we chose out of a hat. We make a big "kids" bed upstairs in the loft and fall asleep waiting for Santa. Then we wake up really early, like 4:00 a.m., and have to wait for the moms and dads to wake up. When it's time to go downstairs, we all gather on the stairs and take a big group picture. Then the parents say, "I think Santa has visited all the nice children. Hurry and go see!" Then we all run down the stairs to the tree where we each find a section of the room with our nametag and our presents beneath it. I just love spending time at Grammy and Grandpa's house for Christmas and am always sad for the years when we miss it.

Kathleen Nielsen: I might be the wrong one to ask this question. . . I can't say Christmas has made magic happen for me in the last several years. I will admit I have been a Scrooge, largely because I'm so busy trying to make magic happen for everyone else! And though I have been more than happy to sacrifice my own "magical" moments to make it such for my family, friends, and neighbors, I have to say that now that a few years have passed, Christmas looks different to me. My children are older, and now instead of trying to keep Santa's secrets from them all month, they have undergone a shift in focus where they understand that it is a season to create opportunities for "goodwill toward men". It was fun to see their faces light up as young children when they got a special toy, but now to see the satisfaction on their faces as they help someone in need, something magical really does happen inside of me. I guess the real magic of Christmas lives inside our hearts and is manifest through acts of love, not only at this season but all year through.

Amy Cates: Christmas cookies and Gingerbread houses!!

© Peri Musser & Felicity Photography

Christy Pethel: The first fluttering snow falling by the glow of street lamps, the smell of pine trees, candles, twinkle lights and ribbon woven through pine garland. And twinkle lights. I hang strands and strands of them wherever I can throughout my house, including winding them through the pine garland I have over my fireplace, china set and large front window seat, as well as the tree. I turn off all the house lights, sit by the fire, and snuggle up to a great book read twinkle light.

Dianne Ingram: Watching the Balboa Boat light parade while drinking hot chocolate, riding the ferry to the island, and walking along the pier to see the brightly lit homes and boats. Baking for my annual Sisters Cookie Exchange, which gives me the excuse to find new recipes and spend many moments baking I don't usually during the rest of the year. I decorate my home, giving each room a different theme (such as Snowmen, Christmas Trees, holiday colors, etc.) and love to listen to Christmas music from the moment Thanksgiving is through. My favorite time of the season is when all my children and grandchildren come over for a Christmas Eve dinner and a big Christmas Day feast. We also love to sip flavored hot cocoa, reminisce about Christmases from the past, and exchange family gifts.

Stacy Fitzgerald: Seeing the lights on my menorah on the eighth night as they sparkle in the reflection of my window. The family gathering together to celebrate... making the same dishes my mother used to make for this special occasion- that's the most magical part to me.

Eloise Parker: The snow!!!! I love to go sledding with my friends until it's so cold my toes feel like they might freeze right off! And then it's inside to sip cocoa by the fire. I love bundling up in coats, scarves, sweaters, and mittens. I love the frost that my breath makes when I breathe in the morning. I love the snow that settles on the branches outside my bedroom window and how it sparkles in the morning sun. The snow is what makes winter magical for me.

© Peri Musser

Nancy Schultz: The traditions we have had that we have carried through the years and that I still look forward to are:
When my children were younger, we all went out to the Christmas tree lot to choose our tree. We always have had a live tree, because the pine smells so wonderful! The live Nativity performed by our church on the outside of our building with sets, live animals, and beautiful costumes. This brings the true meaning of Christmas to me. I love to help decorate the inside with hundreds of international nativities on display. A Cookie Exchange luncheon with all my sisters and nieces, which is fun with just the "girls"- we bring 1 kind of cookies, exchange, and go home with a variety of cookies. A nice elegant Christmas Eve dinner with linens, china, and low candlelight with my children and grandchildren, then caroling through the neighborhood, returning for hot chocolate by the fireplace and reading the Christmas story from the Bible. Christmas morning early - gathering at the top of the stairs, before going down together to see what Santa has brought everyone! The excitement that builds while we wait for everyone to gather is Magical to me.

Jennifer McDonald: My favorite part of the winter season is the celebration of Winter Solstice. My family and I stay awake for the entire night to watch the sun rise, which is symbolic of the God being born to the Goddess. We eat a delicious breakfast and then nap for a few hours before opening presents. Each gift given has significant spiritual meaning. That night, we have a feast with family and friends. I don't think there is any other holiday quite as magical for me as this.

Kylie Kramer: My sweet mother made Christmas magical for our little family by going the extra mile year after year. Our traditions enriched the month of December and made the time so joyful and full of life. I remember my mom playing her Christmas Time Life record collection on her record player… yes, her record player. The beauty of it all was that I'm not even that old - 29! But my mom insisted that keeping the holidays pure and simple meant playing her records to best capture the spirit of the season. We would decorate the house, the tree, and make treats. Looking back on our days of decorating and baking, they seemed like quintessential holiday scenes that you would see in any classic American Christmas film. We would read a Christmas story every night, sing a song, and read a scripture from our Bibles. I so looked forward to our simple family time as a way to ring in the birth of the Savior. As I grew older, my mom never failed to incorporate more and more traditions that would further enrich our holiday season. We had the manger that we would fill with straw for each and every good deed we did throughout the weeks in December. We had our advent calendar where we would pull out the different parts and characters of the Nativity. This homemade felt calendar led to fights as we struggled over who would get to pull out the Holy Family on the 23rd, 24th, and 25th of December.

As an adult looking back on my precious and now-gone childhood, I'm convinced that the magic of our holiday wasn't the things we did or the things we had (or received on Christmas), it was my mother's loving touch, as she strove to go above and beyond. Her whole month was caught up in service to our family, our neighbors, and our community. I remember her lovingly and happily donating to the Salvation Army workers as we exited the stores. All in all, my mother's quiet example of service, love, and extra effort was in similitude of the Savior and his miraculous birth and life, and because she made Christ the center of our home, our Christmas season was magical.

© Peri Musser

Michael Degn: The most magical part of the winter and holidays to me would have to be the acts of service we tend to give at this time, and also the charity in everyone's hearts. We show more love this time of year than any other.

Melissa Scott: My family celebrates the turning of the wheel of year, so we have holidays and celebrations throughout the year. My favorite of these celebrations is Winter Solstice, or as I call it, Yule. I just love the colors of red and green against the white of snow. Candles burning and fires warming in the fireplace, making warm stews to warm my family's bellies, baking, giving gifts, and being with good friends are just some of the things that make this time of year so magical.