Heap on the wood! – the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
~ Sir Walter Scott
Over the past few years, we have scaled back our Christmas-keeping preparations and celebrations. Those which were weighed and found wanting have drifted away, and what remains are the ones most precious to our family. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, they are the simplest as well.
True confession time. Years of exhausting myself and my family with frenetic Martha Stewart-ism, the early harbinger of Pinterest-ism, had left me dreading each Christmas-keeping season with grumpy Scrooge-ism, and worse, starting to dull my wonder at the real splendor of it all. I am still in recovery, but the clamor of the teens who live here, beginning BEFORE Thanksgiving mind you, has not allowed me to just give in to my inner Grinch.
We have a little family Christmas decorating routine. My husband and the teens bring the boxes, hang the stockings, and decorate the tree. Or at least they start to decorate the tree. This “let’s decorate for Christmas BEFORE Thanksgiving” crowd loses interest after about ten ornaments. Husband may or may not issue some (increasingly not-so) gentle reminders for a few days before finally finishing the project himself. This year the teen girl—who won’t be a teen girl this time next year—joined him in the reminders and the remainder of tree-decorating. She even took initiative to get the lights and replace the decrepit tree-topper. Sweet.
That leaves me with do the bits of Christmas-keeping I most enjoy—setting up the Advent candles, decorating table-tops and surfaces throughout the house, and making a wreath for the front door. Except this year, wreath-making was hindered by several Cottage Press projects I was finishing along with a futile hope for a warmish day in consideration of my slightly arthritic hands. Kind husband took matters into his own non-arthritic hands and this is the lovely result. It’s every bit as good as any wreath I ever made, and perhaps better. I did not even tweak the final result (real progress for this perfectionist!) beyond adding the bow at his request.
With impeccable timing, today’s article at The Federalist by my wise friend Jayme Metzgar, aka cover designer extraordinaire for Cottage Press, is Seven Ways To Simplify Your Christmas: Christmas Doesn’t Need to Be the Motherhood Olympics. I could quote from every paragraph, but instead I will just whet your appetite to go and read it for yourself with this:
Somewhere along the line, we got the idea that Christmas was the embodiment of everything ideal: the utopia of holidays. When really, Christmas has always been about redemption. It’s about one little spark of hope shining through the despair of this world. It’s about one new life, who is the Life, beginning in the midst of oppressive taxes and an overcrowded city and childbirth in a stable.
As I consider all of these things, Edith Schaeffer’s words keep coming back to my mind. We are blessed with some good gifts of Christmas-keeping tradition in our home and family. In addition to our hall decking, we have our Advent banner and our annual reading of A Christmas Carol. Our church family carols in our small town a few weeks before Christmas and celebrates Christmas Eve with our sister congregation, which happily happens to be our married kids’ church. We have our Christmas Eve pajamas, and our Christmas morning presents (very low-key and frugal!) around the tree with our kids at home and our two dear moms. We have our Christmas Crunch, our Christmas pickle, and our annual watching of A Christmas Story. Simple stuff, really. The slavish pursuit of an elusive picture-perfect Christmas does not true traditions make. Instead, traditions worth keeping are indeed those that guard the best gifts of faith and family.
Some of these good Christmas-keeping traditions we must hold with an open hand. Some years Christmas falls on a Sunday and our Lord’s Day celebration takes precedence over all the rest of Christmas Day. This has its own glory, and is a tradition in itself, almost like a year of Jubilee. Some of our traditions will fade as the years hasten on, rightfully giving way to new ones established by our children and their own families. And someday, all of these will give way to the best of all best Gifts which the truest traditions have been guarding through all ages.