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A Tender Croatian Christmas - Simply Helping Him: Marriage Experience from a Help Meet



Nov 04

A Tender Croatian Christmas

We were never very traditional people by nature – until the day after Thanksgiving rolled around. That’s when our family carefully unpacked one tradition after another, savoring each one like a tender morsel. From decorating the whole yard and house to homemade peanut brittle.  From tree-decorating to caroling our neighbors.  From reading the Christmas story and reviewing the reason for the tree, lights and gifts to seeing one very carefully wrapped gift – dad’s gift to mom and knowing that it was a “church outfit” he always bought her at a high-end department store. It was all intentional and traditional.  And when I reminisce about those days I am instantly transported across 9 time zones; I can smell each fragrance and hear the ring of laughter that still hangs in the air so many years later. I’ll even confess to a few tender tears, for each tradition carries so much meaning to this non-traditional girl.


But I think the tradition that meant most to me was waking up Christmas morning – we kids always woke up way too early.  We would tip-toe down the stairs, see our bulging stockings hanging from the piano and just stare in wonder.  There were always two stockings missing – mom’s and dad’s.  They had a sweet tradition of hiding each others’ stockings.  After the kids had “opened” their stockings mom and dad would begin their game of hot and cold.  I am not sure when this tradition
began.  All I know is that for as long as I remember they played “Hot and Cold Stocking” Christmas morning. 


My husband and I are still making our own holiday traditions.  I confess to being very surprised to learn that my husband’s family kept things very low-key around Christmas.  No big tree, no elegant decorations, perhaps a gift or two, no caroling (no caroling?).  I honestly could not fathom Christmas without gathering around the piano singing carols or listening to Bing Crosby dream about a white Christmas. Zlatko grew up in Yugoslavia under communism, and that had a lot to do with their subdued celebrations.  His mom would make a lot of cookies and yummy goodies; they would roast a suckling pig out in their yard over an open fire, and have a large dinner.  That was Christmas to them.


To marry our two extremely different cultures and backgrounds has been rather interesting as we explore how to accept and respect each others’ varied perspective of Christmas and how it ought to be celebrated.  He is learning to find joy in the house being literally turned upside down and lit to kingdom come and I am learning to make some of his favorite holiday goodies.  Last year I learned how to make baklava. 
Christmas at our house in Croatia starts a bit differently now. I start decorating December 1st and we have an artificial tree. In place of “It’s a Wonderful Life” we usually end up watching “The Toy That Saved Christmas”.  It’s simple. 


Sometimes my husband has to work, so sometimes we celebrate Christmas Eve instead.


But it’s sweet.


It’s tender.


But most of all, it’s sacred.

One thing we have done each year for the past 6 years of our marriage is to sit down together before we open our gifts and read the Christmas story.  Perhaps this seems cliché to some, but there is nothing more important, nor so special than to read God’s Word together as a family, and to share the joy of knowing that God loved us so much that He was willing to send His only Son to be born in the most unlikely circumstances and to a most unlikely couple. If there is one thing my husband and I see eye to eye about regarding Christmas it is to keep Christ at the very center of everything we do.




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  1. Mel Caldicott

    It’s so interesting to hear how you have blended different traditions to form your own family traditional Christmas. It’s this kind of thing that bonds our families strongly together because we share a unique identity. Love tradition! Your Christmas sounds so sweet!
    Thanks for sharing at Essential Fridays.

  2. Jennifer @ The Jenny Evolution

    I wanted to invite you to the Friday Flash Blog Party, the best linky in town! I hope you’ll join us and link up if you haven’t already. Who knows. You may just get highlighted!

    The party goes on ALL weekend.

    Jennifer @ The Jenny Evolution

    1. simplyhelpinghim

      Oh thanks for letting me know! I will add it to my link up page so I don’t miss it this week! 🙂 Blessings!

  3. Dolly

    Such a sweet post! My Husband and I come from different Christmas traditions as well, so it will be interesting to see how we create our OWN Christmas this year! 😀

    1. Rosilind @ A Little R & R

      You will make new and wonderful memories, I am sure of it!

  4. Joanne Viola

    Rosalind – What a sweet post! I am like you & love the tradition & memories of Christmas. This will be the 1st Christmas that our house is now totally empty of children. Both are now married. Sure, they will come at some point in the morning & spend the day. But we won’t all be waking up together. In reading your post I realized that we each make those memories for our families. They learn from them to make them for their own families. The traditions carry on that way & always such special meaning in a larger picture. So grateful for this time of year that is set apart to give thanks & remember the birth of our Savior! A beautiful post!
    I was your neighbor at Momma Notes this morning 🙂

    1. Rosilind @ A Little R & R

      Thank you, Joanne. Isn’t it wonderful to make memories and then watch your children make their own….and see which ones they choose to keep? I pray your celebrations are filled with much joy and laughter…as you celebrate our Savior!

  5. Lisha Epperson

    Oh Rosalind you know my heart well. Christmas just isn’t Christmas without the lights, treats and music. In the car today I told the kids I might have to start playing Christmas carols. It’s so hard to wait for that special time of year. So many sweet childhood memories. My husband and I have joined forces and combined our traditions well. But like you the point of it all is Christ…and we make sure to keep him at the center. I loved reading this and will pull out my Christmas CDs for the car tomorrow, As far as I’m concerned it’s never too early for Christ. Visiting from Hear It On Sunday Use it on Monday!

    1. Rosilind @ A Little R & R

      Ahh – a girl after my own heart! 🙂 I love this time of year….starting with Thanksgiving through the New Year…I just have so much fun. It’s all so filled with meaning and beautiful purpose!

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