This holiday season, we asked our writers to share with us ideas around “The New Christmas” — how they are reinventing the holiday season in new ways, in personal or public rituals, with new traditions or with a return to long lost ones, with broader definitions of family and community. We asked them to share with us how they are moving away from the “consumerism” culture of the season, what “shifts” are happening in the ways they celebrate the season, and how they are engaging their friends and family in these new traditions. — Eds.

5347998667_32efc2c612_zPhoto by erika g. via Flickr (Creative commons License)

This August, I moved to New York City with my 23-year-old daughter Isabel, leaving my husband Casper and 24-year-old son Alexander back home in Copenhagen. This year we are spending Christmas together in New York, just the four of us. Last year, Isabel was in Bali with friends for Christmas after a semester of business school in South Korea. And the year before, Alexander was traveling in Asia after a semester of law school in Hong Kong. This year, we are all thrilled to be finally spending Christmas together.

This year will also be the first time in more than twenty years that no one in our family has to study or work (knock on wood) during the Christmas holidays. In Denmark, exams are held right after New Year’s Eve, putting a real damper on Christmas and New Year’s celebrations in our family.

This year, we will all have time for Handel’s Messiah at Trinity Church, vespers at Saint Patrick’s old cathedral on Mulberry Street and the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. We will have time for leisure reading at McNally Jackson Independent Bookseller and to indulge in games of scrabble, backgammon and chess. I am hoping that Casper will be in the mood to bake some of his yummy Christmas cookies. He has promised to bring a bag of short rice and a special pan so that we can make traditional Danish rice pudding and apple fritters.


I am planning to watch Ingmar Berman’s film Fanny and Alexander again this year. I watch it every December because the scenes of Christmas in Sweden always put me in a festive mood. There is a five-hour-long version, but I usually watch the three-hour version. The film is about a Swedish theater family and is set in Uppsala, Sweden, from 1907 to 1909. The Christmas scenes in the film are old-fashioned and very Scandinavian, and the story itself is magical.

Every year, I enjoy the girl-power scene at the end of the film in which the theater director, Emilie, asks her mother-in-law, Helena, to be in August Strindberg’s new play A Dream Play. The film ends with Helena reading from the play while her grandchild Alexander rests his head in her lap: Everything can happen. Everything is possible and probable. Time and space do not exist.

New Patterns (for Casper), 2015, acrylic on paper.

New Patterns (for Casper), 2015, acrylic on paper.

When I was a child, the magic of Christmas was making and giving handmade gifts. I started in September and carefully made every gift that I gave. I am returning to my childhood tradition this year and I am making something for each member of my wonderful little family.

I have designed a small pendant of my husband’s family’s symbol for Isabel; a local jeweler, Eli Halili, is making the necklace for me. My husband’s mother, the fierce matriarch of the family, passed away this year and the necklace is to be worn in her memory. I have written a collection of personal stories for Alexander called The Boy Who Could Coax the Kitty Out from Under the Sofa. In February, Alexander will be graduating from law school and he will start his first full-time job at a law firm. As his mother, I want to give him something to make him smile and to remind him of who he is and how far he has come. And I have painted a new work on paper for Casper to hang in his office. The painting is my declaration of love and commitment to our marriage; it is a tangle of pink vines that are sorting themselves out and gracefully falling into place.

As Strindberg writes: On a flimsy framework of reality the imagination spins, weaving new patterns.

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  • grace graupe-pillard December 18, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    Lovely to read your “New Christmas” tale Suzanne and wishing the entire family a wonderful time all together.