I haven’t always been great about getting holiday decorations up in a timely manner.
When my big boys were very little, it didn’t matter so much, since they didn’t know the difference, and as we had more babies, I had less and less mental energy to think about such things. But I always did get the decorations up eventually, even if it was with mere days (or even one day) to go until Christmas.
Our decorations are modest: we have a few Christmassy items that I put out around the house, and we decorate our Christmas tree with white lights and garland, topped with a star, and hung with ornaments. We have some store-bought ornaments and ones that were given to us, but my heart belongs to the ones the boys have made in school. Every year before Christmas, certain grades have ornament-making sessions, and I treasure what my boys have brought home: the wreaths made out of rice; the gingerbread men made out of glue and cinnamon that make the house smell like cinnamon until I pack them away after the Ephiphany; the Baby Jesus in the manger made out of construction paper and a clothespin. We have several of these same ornaments, since we’ve had several boys go through these grades, and I’m pretty sure my parents have some of the same ornaments on their tree from when my brothers and sisters and I were little.
Mom and Dad are in a new house for Christmas this year, after having sold our childhood home two years ago and been displaced last year while their new house was being fixed up, but so many of the same Christmas decorations they’ve always put out are currently on display. The stockings my grandmother knitted for each of us are hung, not on our old mantel in our old house, but in a new spot. Dad replaced some outside bulbs with red and green ones, as they’d done at their old house, and Mom’s love of stringing colored lights and putting candles in the windows has followed them to their new house, as has the Nativity scene she loves to put outside and the construction-paper Rudolph that one of my sisters made when she was little. We would get so excited when we saw the decorations get pulled out of storage each year—it felt like the Christmas season was really here.
Despite my humble attempts over the years, I see that my boys have that same feeling when I pull out our decorations, and with 2020 being the way it is, I really wanted to have my act together. I’m pleased to say that, as of this writing, I’ve strung lights and pine boughs above our main window; we have a Merry Christmas banner and a string of gold stars strung in various rooms; I put snowflake clings on our front door window and hung a big wreath on the door itself; and put the small statue of Santa on the piano (our Nativity set was never put away—it’s been hanging out by the video games since last year). And tonight, we’re putting up the tree and decorating it, nearly three full weeks before Christmas!
When I told the boys that we would be putting up the tree tonight and that we would be having finger foods and watching a Christmas movie while doing so—a routine we started several years ago that we’ve actually been good about keeping up with—one of my big boys sighed and said, “I love that tradition.” We always joke that another of the boys is like Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation—he really wants the totally tricked-out house and is always disappointed that we don’t cover the outside of our house in lights—but even he was excited when he came home from school the day I’d put up the decorations inside and said, “Oh Mama! The house looks so nice!” None of us complained when one of our favorite radio stations started playing Christmas carols on November 1, and I’ve caught more than one of the boys humming those familiar tunes as they go about their day (I sing them full out all the time, much to the bigger boys’ chagrin).
I love how somewhat unremarkable Christmas traditions can be and still be meaningful, and how easy it is to start new ones that children latch onto and love. The fostering of such excitement seems more important this year than ever—we all seem primed to embrace wholeheartedly anything that provides some light and joy and hope. I hope you’re all finding ways to let this “most wonderful time of the year” light up the end of your 2020, even amidst the darkness, and I hope the Christmas carol is right: “Next year all our troubles will be out of sight.”