12 Days of Christmas


Christmas and the entire holiday season look a lot different for all of us this year. Instead of going shopping with my sister, baking with my mom, watching Christmas movies with my parents, and attending local holiday events and parties with my husband and daughter, this year my family is staying home, buying our gifts online (from local vendors whenever possible), and sharing time with family and friends on the computer via Zoom. But it just isn't the same. I miss the hustle and bustle, the energy, the spirit, and the excitement of the usual holiday season. Since I won't be celebrating Christmas with anyone outside of my own home this year, for my twelve days of Christmas post I will share our family's cherished holiday traditions in hopes they will remind me of all the joys of the season. I hope they will inspire your most treasured Christmas memories as well!

On the 1st day of Christmas...

One of my favorite traditions is decorating our Christmas tree - we always do this the day after Thanksgiving. With Christmas music playing in the background, my daughter and I unwrap and lay all the ornaments out on the dining table while my husband gets the tree put up. Every year we each get one new special ornament, plus a new family ornament, and I always make a photo ornament of my daughter so I can see the progression of how she has grown. My husband always teases me that we have too many ornaments. I respond by telling him that every single branch on the tree has to have at least one ornament. We do have a huge ornament collection, and many of the branches end up with multiple ornaments by the time we are finished hanging them all. Each of us have certain ornaments we like to put on the tree ourselves because they hold special meaning, and we even have certain areas of the tree dedicated to themes of ornaments. When I was a child, I always played "Oh Christmas Tree" on the piano after decorating the tree - a tradition I have continued into adulthood but now, as I no longer have a piano, I play the song on my phone and sing along to our tree (much to my family's chagrin!).

From left to right - top row: Our Christmas tree ornaments on our dining table; one of our family ornaments; part of my horse ornament collection

From left to right - bottom row: Part of our beachy ornament collection; one of my daughter's annual ornaments and a handmade ornament from her elementary school days; an ornament from our doggie collection

On the 2nd day of Christmas...

When I was growing up my mom, sister and I always spent days in the kitchen every December baking and decorating sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, pumpkin bread, and my mom's specialty, jelly-filled cookies. My sister and I would go to bed with tummy aches from eating so many cookies while decorating them with colored frosting, sprinkles, and glitter. But it was all worth it when we handed them out to our friends, neighbors, family members and teachers in beautiful holiday-themed tins, wrapped in red and gold ribbons and bows. My daughter and I have already made our first batch of pumpkin bread this year. We used the family recipe, but put our own stamp on it by substituting half of the called-for amount of flour with almond flour. The results were amazing - it was the best pumpkin bread I ever recall tasting! Click here for the recipe.

On the 3rd day of Christmas...

There are so many beautiful decorations this time of year, it is easy to select a particular theme or character and start to collect them. My mom has the most impressive collection of Santas, and when I got married I wanted to start collecting something that I could add to each holiday season. Since I love horses so much, I decided to collect reindeer. However, my family decided I should collect snowmen and every year have given me one, adding to what is now my snowman collection! My husband has a miniature Christmas village that grows each year, and my daughter collects Nutcrackers and snow globes. Unwrapping and displaying these items each year always brings about nostalgia of past Christmas's, and memories of the year a particular item in the collection was added.

On the 4th day of Christmas...

Whether impromptu cell phone pics or posed portraits taken with my camera, I never tire of taking photos of my dogs in front of the Christmas tree! In fact, this is something I do every year. There is just something magical about taking photos in front of the golden-lit tree!

On the 5th day of Christmas...

Who can resist the innocent joy of playing in the snow?! There are so many fun snow activities - building a snowman, making snow angels, or even having a snowball fight! Dress warm and have fun, then come inside and enjoy hot cocoa or a mug of peppermint tea. I am ready, are you?


On the 6th day of Christmas...

When I was a young girl, my mom took a part-time job for the holidays wrapping gifts at a fancy department store. I remember my dad bringing my sister and me to the mall to pick up my mom after her shift. I would stare in awe at the ornately wrapped sample gifts hanging on the wall, each one with uniquely patterned paper, coordinating ribbons and bows, and an ornament attached to the gift as an additional keepsake for its recipient. I wished I could wrap gifts that looked as glamorous as those, but no matter how hard I tried, I have never been able to mimmic their beauty. It has never stopped me from trying though - I absolutely LOVE to wrap Christmas presents!

On the 7th day of Christmas...

My Arabian horses are some of my greatest loves, and for the past 30 years I have photographed many of them wearing Christmas wreaths. Some years the photos are taken in the snow with fog and frost as the backdrop, other years the images are taken with brilliant jewel-tone backgrounds before the horse has developed a full winter coat for the winter season. These festive images are always a favorite!

On the 8th day of Christmas...

One of my favorite holiday memories is going to the Christmas tree farm with my sister and parents as a young girl. We would drive to the mountains to get to the tree farm, then be taken by horse-drawn sleigh to where the trees were. Once we chose our tree, cut it down and loaded it onto the back of the sleigh, we drank hot cocoa topped with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. That fun family tradition ended after we finally discovered why my mom would get sick every Christmas - she is allergic to pine trees! We had artificial trees from then on. This year my husband and I decided to visit our local Christmas tree farm - it was magical! We took our annual Christmas card photo while there - it is one I will forever treasure!

On the 9th day of Christmas...

This is the season of giving, which is one of the most rewarding aspects of the holidays for me! Donations of gifts, food and money to those in need have long been a tradition in my family. And for my loved ones, thinking about and then finding just the perfect gift has always been something I enjoy. This year, the shopping aspect has been done all on-line and for the most part with me sitting at my computer alone doing it - a huge change from previous years where the family makes an outing of it and spends the entire day together going from store to store, from one side of town to the other, and enjoying eating out together throughout the day. Hoping next year our shopping traditions can be resumed and we can once again be part of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season!

On the 10th day of Christmas...

One of my fondest memories of the holidays while growing up is driving around neighborhoods and quaint downtown streets to look at all the beautiful Christmas lights and decorations. This is something I have continued to do with my own family. We load up the dogs in the back of our SUV, fill the car with the family (which, when my grandparents were still alive and my parents lived here, comprised of 4 generations!), and drive around for hours on end to enjoy the sights of the season.

On the 11th day of Christmas...

Last year my husband and I started what we hope to be a new tradition - we attended a small town Christmas festival. It felt like we were in a real-life Hallmark Christmas movie! The town was so romantic, the Christmas decorations a mix of old fashioned and new, and the strong feeling of community that surrounded us was truly magical. We even tried chestnuts roasted on an open fire for the first time. Everything was absolutely perfect, especially that we spent it together. Looking forward to picking up this tradition in the future!

On the 12th day of Christmas...

My most cherished holiday tradition is spending the day with my family. Both my parents come from large families (my dad is the second to youngest of six siblings, my mom is the oldest of six siblings), so as a child Christmas Eve (spent with one side of the family) and Christmas Day (spent with the other side of the family) were made up of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and too many cousins to count! These days the holidays aren't shared with as many family members as we live in a different state than most of our family, but the holidays are spent together with all who are able to be there. This year our celebration will be limited to our own household, but I look forward to playing board games, cooking and baking, and watching Christmas movies with my husband and daughter. Whatever your holiday traditions, my Christmas wish for you and your family is one of peace, good health, and happiness! MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!



Award-winning portrait photographer Shannon Edney's photos have been featured on multiple magazine covers with photos published in print and digital advertisements around the world. Based out of Missoula, Montana, Shannon specializes in portrait photography showcasing people, dogs, and horses (all breeds, with a focus on the Arabian horse). Shannon is known for her ability to catch the perfect expression and capture her subjects in unique lighting, resulting in portraits rich in artistry that will be treasured for years to come.

Please contact Shannon for schedule, availability and pricing.