For years I participated in all the traditional seasonal activities that I grew up with…
Dragging out boxes from closets that were chock full of Christmas decorations and donning the inside (and sometimes the outside) of the house. Assembling the tree and adorning it with beautiful ornaments that had been hung year after year, some that had been carefully crafted by loved ones. Joining in the retail madness and shopping for just the perfect gifts. Baking up a storm to assemble cookie plates for neighbors and coworkers and packing the goodies carefully into shoeboxes to send to loved ones across the country. Writing Christmas letters and including them in cards with the latest photographs of the kids. Attending holiday parties for employers. Rehearsing for weeks with other singers in preparation for a performance at our church Christmas Eve service. Setting out the cookies and milk for Santa and the carrot for Rudolph. Wrapping and placing presents under the tree after the kids finally had fallen asleep. Waking up very early Christmas morning (when the boys were young) and dragging them out of their beds later (when they hit junior high) to open presents in our pajamas. Cooking a big meal for my children and my parents and always gratefully accepting the delicious apple and pumpkin pies my mom brought over. Later in the afternoon, braving the crowds at the movie theatre.
I have such wonderful memories of those times.
My how life changes! It seems over the past few years the way I progress through December has altered. Not necessarily for the worse, just different.
The boxes of decorations has reduced down to two strings of colorful lights I hang up inside wherever I happen to be staying. I like those lights. They make me feel happy. I’ve considered leaving them up all year round, but then they wouldn’t be so special. Who knew a couple $1.99 strings of lights could have such an effect!
I avoid the retail shopping experience completely by purchasing gifts online. Often opting for gift cards allowing for the recipients to simply purchase whatever they really want. Some may say that’s a cop out, but it works for me. And, I don’t hear any complaints from those that receive them!
The December after both my parents passed, the baking ceased. That first Christmas without them was a hard one. I just never returned to the full fledged goodie creation routine.
The stack of cards once faithfully sent out each year now mostly go unsent. A few letters might make it out but if so, they are usually after Christmas. For years, I enjoyed putting together our family Christmas letter summarizing events and special moments that had taken place during that year, but now with technology and social media, sometimes that feels redundant. Occasionally, I still do a version of the letter for those distant friends and family that are not online.
As children grow up and have friends and other families to share time with the traditional morning with family changes. I was away this past December, but am looking forward to a trip back to see my grown children next week. No need to feed Santa, Rudolph or cook a big meal. I miss my mom’s apple pie, though.
My family and loved ones are important and I still keep the old tradition of phoning those that I cannot be with on December 25th. Also, Rick and I both love watching movies and since there is no theatre down where we live, we watched a movie on DVD instead.
Do I miss the way I used to spend my December’s? Well in some instances, yes. But in many things, definitely not.
Although I recall all what I loved about the crazy, busy holiday season, it honestly can quickly become self-inflicted stress. Just the shopping alone can make us exhausted and lose track of what is really important. It can become a time of year with ridiculously high expectations fueled by marketing experts in the retail industry. When I read about people being rude, initiating fights and camping out for days all to get their hands on some material item that they believe to be so important, it makes me shake my head. True, we all have different priorities so to each their own.
The few days between Christmas and New Years, I spent some very quiet time thinking and exploring project ideas for 2015. I say quiet because the place where I was staying had no Internet and very limited cell service! (Amazing these days.) However, it allowed for little distraction and some productive time.
And yes, I did bring and put up my two strings of lights! The weather was rainy and cold for an entire week, something that after living in Arizona for thirty years is tough to deal with! However, one late afternoon the sun peeked through the clouds providing a wonderful, reflective moment on Lake Palestine.
Most assuredly, I have come to like and appreciate a simpler December. A calmer one. One not filled to the brim with activities, over-the-top expectations, and trying to live up to someone else’s standards.
I have so much appreciation to those of you who read my posts/blogs and am forever grateful for your love and encouragement. I have good vibes about 2015 and am excited in getting started. May you all have a blessed and fulfilled year.
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