I truly love the holiday season. The lights, the music, the decorations, the memories. There are several homes in our area that take my breath away with their elegant displays at Christmas time. My favorites are the homes decked out with white lights and red bows. The simplicity is beautiful.
I come from a long line of people whose energy at Christmas time is fierce. In my home growing up, everything changed this time of year. The pictures on the walls were different. The decorations on the shelves were swapped out. Trees were tastefully decorated in multiple rooms. Lights lined the front porch and battery operated candles were displayed in every window.
Now that you know this history and my professed love for the season it would probably surprise you to get a glimpse of my house this time of year. You’ll find the decor lacking and underwhelming, perhaps you’d even accuse me of not having any Christmas spirit. But you see, for me, it’s not just simple decorations that I find beautiful but simple living, and it never appeals to me more than at Christmas.
When Mark and I first got married I wanted to recreate the festive atmosphere that my mom created in my childhood home. I was excited to lay out my beautiful china dishes on the dining room table and I tried to put a touch of Christmas in every room. I collected these items to display for years before getting married and once I finally had a home of my own to decorate, I would arrange them and rearrange them constantly, wanting it to be perfect. And, as is normal in the early years of marriage, we kept busy visiting both sides of each of our families and participating in several church events. We ran here and there, trying to maintain every tradition that our families had started in our childhood.
The funny thing is that in all of this celebrating, my joy would decrease as the weeks went on. By Christmas day, I was sick of it and just wanted life to return to normal. It wasn’t until we started talking about having kids that the craziness of the season nearly made me implode. In all our efforts to keep with the traditions established before us, we had no time to develop traditions of our own. I felt like we had no say in how we celebrate the season and this made me resentful. So I did the one thing I could do to save my sanity and preserve the peace. I started saying no.
It started by saying no to the decorations that I “had” to put up. I left an entire storage bin of decorations untouched for a couple years before finally donating everything in it. I got rid of the garland around the banister and the snowmen on the shelf. I threw away the candles and gave away anything that I did not have a proper place for.
Then we started saying no to all the extra events that get scheduled this time of year. Gone was the obligation to attend everything that was put on a family or community calendar simply because it’s something we “should” do. Because there is absolutely no point in attempting to do everything everyone wants you to do if you are miserable in the effort.
It took a couple hard years of transition to find our own flare of holiday spirit. Eventually, we were able to stop saying no and start saying yes. Now we get to spend a day in the kitchen with our kids, making cookies to pass out to our neighbors. We go sledding, make snowmen and build snow palaces. We invite our friends over for afternoon coffee or an evening meal, sharing our home and making memories in it. We volunteer on Christmas Eve at church, because we are not stressed or rushed or pressured to be in three different places and are happy to make it part of our day. And, perhaps my very favorite thing, we welcome our entire family into our home on Christmas day, sharing good food and quality time together.
So when you walk into my house this Christmas, don’t expect anything too grand. Green and red lights will guide you up the driveway and a simple wreath will greet you at our front door. You will find one tree, a manger scene, and stockings hung around the chimney. But most importantly, you will find a home filled with warmth and laughter as we focus on providing a taste of Christ’s goodness to all who enter. Because Christmas is not about everything you can cram into a few weeks. It’s about staying focused on the few things that really matter.
What are you focusing on this Christmas?