I’m no Grinch, but I have exactly zero Christmas decorations up in my home. In fact, as Christmas draws near I’ve actually been taking down my home’s decor, leaving the walls blank aside from a few vacant nails.
We’re in the process of moving. It’s a terrible process. Don’t get me wrong, we’re thrilled about the move, but moving is awful. It’s hard work and I always find I have so much more stuff than I originally thought. We’ll be getting into our new place this weekend, a week before we leave town to spend Christmas with family. It’s safe to bet I won’t be getting any Christmas decorations put up this year.
This is all terrible and sad, I know. Some of you are currently sitting in the Christmas Wonderland of your living room wondering how on earth I’m making it through. The answer is I do not know and I’m definitely jealous of your wonderland.
Without the real option to put up decorations this year, I did what I could to infuse our home with some Christmas spirit: I bought scented pine cones. I know, they’re cheap and contrived but they smell like warmth and cinnamon, and diffusing essential oils just doesn’t look like a bowl of rustic, wintry decor.
As much as I wish my home was lit up with Christmas lights and garland, that it’s not is giving me pause. Can Christmas still be what it is without even one square inch of space being given to visually representing the season? The question sounds silly—of course it can still be Christmas without the decorations. But is it a Christmas anyone really wants to experience?
In high school, it was pretty customary for girls to flood their friends with flowers and balloons on their birthday. I’ll never forget one year when I didn’t have the chance to get a friend something for her birthday. When I showed up at school empty-handed, she was so upset she wouldn’t speak to me. Devastated, I called my Mom from the school payphone and begged her to bring a bouquet of flowers to the school for my friend. She did (God bless her) and a major adolescent crisis was averted.
I don’t fault my high school friend for her reaction. Twenty years later, however, I look back on the senselessness of it all. Just because I didn’t arrive at school bearing gifts doesn’t mean I could not celebrate my friend. In fact, we missed out on time when I could have honored her because she spent part of the day not speaking to me.
Celebration can look like so many things. It’s really fun when it looks like balloons and flowers or lights and garland; but when it can’t, due to circumstances within or outside of our control, what do we do?
I’m guessing I’m not the only one whose Christmas season is lacking something I’m accustomed to having. Maybe you don’t have decorations up. Maybe you can’t spend the holiday with your family or attend a party or service you typically do. You might unable to participate in your typical traditions because you’re spending Christmas in your office or in a hospital room. Whatever it is that is making you feel like something is missing this Christmas, know that I’M WITH YOU. And, just because we don’t have all the components we’d like in this season does not mean we cannot still sincerely celebrate.
Already, I’m finding that this season, I often take the long way home so I can go through the Oakwood neighborhood, which has beautifully lit trees lining the streets. (It turns out, when you don’t have your own Christmas tree you really delight in the trees of others.) I listen to a lot more Christmas music and say “Merry Christmas!” to people more frequently. On a deeper level, I have been reflecting on the Christmas story to a greater extent than I typically do. Maybe it’s because I’m pregnant, so Mary’s experience feels real in a new way to me; I believe, however, it’s also because I don’t want to miss this Christmas. Something feels “off” for me in not having my home decorated, so I want to be sure that unlike my high school friend, I don’t throw away the entire celebration just because a piece of it is missing.
Christmas will still happen, whether or not I have a Christmas tree up or snowmen lining my bookshelves. It will still happen in your life, too, regardless of what feels “off” this year. The choice, I suppose, is ours regarding how we choose to engage this season, even when all is not as we’d like it to be. After all, a birthday can still be celebrated without flowers and balloons, and Christmas can still be celebrated with only a bowl of artificially scented pinecones.
Merry Christmas, good people!