There was once a time when I loved Christmas. I loved the smell of cinnamon that would waft through my grandmother’s home while we tore through gifts piled high under the tree. The fun my brother and I used to have stuffing ourselves full of turkey and mashed potatoes until we were ready to explode. The laughter that we’d share with the people who we loved was so unforgettable in those days of carefree Christmases. There was just something about that time of year that brought smiles to faces and a feeling of cheer to the air.
But then adulthood hit and the reality of this god-awful month became painfully clear. Let us remember the fact that you will probably be plunging yourself into thousands of dollars of debt in order to achieve the “perfect” Christmas experience for you and your family. Not to mention the high-stress state of affairs that is the “family get-together”. All of the scheduling around each other’s plans can be enough to drive a person bonkers.
And please don’t get me started on the “one-upping” of the Jones’ at this sacred time of year. Right down the street we have our very own Griswold family who seem to think it is appropriate to drain the electricity grid every evening to show off their superb light show. How the hell am I supposed to compete with that? Here I am with a pitiable Charlie Brownish wreath that hangs lopsided off my front door and I am calling myself Martha-fucking-Stewart!
Well, don’t I sound like the Grinch? Before I know it I am going to be growing green body hair and people aren’t going to want to touch me with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole.
Each year when this month rolls around I tell myself that I shall not succumb to the scroogery. However every year once the pressure of Christmas envelopes me there I am yelling at Christmas carolers to get off my porch and telling the children that the Elf on the Shelf was too tired to get into any shenanigans the night before. Ugh it makes me guilty even writing it. Christmas is a difficult time of year and it only seems to be getting more and more complicated as I get older.
I had been telling the kids for weeks that after Lars’ birthday we would put the tree up. This is yet another Christmas event that has become more of a task than a treat. Each year it always seems to be a fight over who gets to put up what decorations and where on the tree they should go and how the proper way to string a strand of lights are and how much tinsel is too much tinsel—you get the point.
So begrudgingly I pulled out the tree from our storage area and began to set up. Something happened however as I placed the synthetic thing together…Some might say my, ‘small heart grew three sizes that day’. I watched as Sophie sorted eagerly through the antique decorations that my Mom had given to me several years back. Any other year when the kids have eyed the priceless bulbs I’ve stopped them in their tracks and told them that those decorations were for adults only, they’d be left with the paper-chains and popsicle stick picture frames they had made in preschool.
Maybe it was the way she ever so gently handled them or the gleam of wonder in her eyes as she sorted through these very old treasures but I decided to let Sophie and Lars do all of the decorating this year. After setting the tree up and stringing the lights (which seemed surprisingly easy when you forgot about the stress of it all) I found a seat on the couch.
I took that time to appreciate the joy that they were getting out of this tree decorating occasion. I played Christmas carols and made hot chocolate—the real kind of hot chocolate that my mom used to make for us.
After all was said and done the tree looked beautiful! All at once I didn’t care about coordinating the colors of the decorations or if the bulbs were evenly distributed, my heart was too warm to feel anxious about anything.
It was then that I realized that it isn’t childhood that makes Christmas a carefree and joyous time. It is having the ability to let go and simply be grateful for the people you love and the delight of the season itself.