As I was hurriedly decorating the house and the tree the other day, I wondered what ever made me think I *had* to do this.
When I was little, my mom NEVER decorated for the holidays. We were lucky if we got a tree. There were no traditions, no saying, "We do _____ *every* year!" Because we didn't do anything every year. Some years we would have a tree, some years we didn't. Some years we would go to my g-ma's and some years we stayed home. We NEVER had Christmas lights on the outside of our house and we had no other decorations beside the tree and we NEVER baked anything. Nary a sugar cookie or granule of colored sugar could be found in that house.
My mom "hated" Christmas. God only knows what she had suffered through during her childhood holidays, but I have no doubt that she was totally and thoroughly traumatized. She wished it didn't come every year and didn't hesitate to tell us this through-out the whole entire holiday season. She limped along and made sure we had some gifts to open, but it was purely parental obligation. Christmas for her was what that wedding a couple months back, was to me.
Fast-forward to my early wife/mom years. From that set of experiences I was primed and ready to create a holiday extravaganza like no one had ever seen the likes of! We hung lights on the outside of our first little home, I decorated all over the place, the kids helped make sugar cookies and decorate them, I invited all of our little pre-schooler friends over to make Christmas crafts of which my children surely have no memory anymore. We dressed in color co-ordinated Christmas-y outfits and had family photos taken. I bought enough to enclose one in each Christmas card that also contained my Christmas letter. (Yes, I am mortified when I think back on that!)
Fast-forward to now, to today! I watch my best friend who puts Martha Stewart to shame decorate her home and yard and she gets tremendous joy from this. I have heard that her mom was the same way. Today she sent me a picture of some homemade dog biscuits she was making to give to her grand-dogs for gifts.
Ok now for the truth....I do not reap huge amounts of joy from Christmas. Or from decorating. I feel like its a lot of work. If I didn't have kids coming home, I wouldn't have done most of what I did....which wasn't all that much. I do LOVE finding just the right gift though. Now, THAT makes me happy!
Every year I think, "I need to find what will be my authentic Christmas experience." And then before I know it, its here again and I am hurrying around throwing together my same old deal. Now my adult kids are feeling the pressure of getting gifts for everyone, when they really can't afford it. I say things like "Spend a day with me. I just want your time. Come and help me burn leaves. Put together a day hike. Lets do a home-made Christmas! Lets all go and feed the homeless!" They look at me like I am crazy....
They would do all of those things with me, but NOT in lieu of a Christmas gift.
So heres to *getting through* this holiday with as much joy and peace and authenticity as I can muster. And heres to figuring out what *my* truly ideal Christmas celebration will be filled with next year.
I would love to hear what you do to make Christmas authentic to your family if you feel like sharing. (NOT so I can authentically copy your authentic ideas though. Promise.)