The Christmas season begins for me on December 1st. Always has. On that day, my parents pulled out the Christmas with Conniff album and woke my brother and me with the dulcet 70s sounds of Jingle Bells and Here Comes Santa Claus. Without fail, that album delivered the first sounds of the season — an angelic host heralding the arrival of the Holidays.
The tradition continued when I went to college, my parents calling me at some ungodly hour to play Jingle Bells over the phone lines. And it continued into adulthood, my brother and I entering into a competition to see who could call the other first … There was one pre-6am call from him that I will never forget.
I have Christmas with Conniff on my iPhone now, and have provided CDs to my kids and both nieces so that the next generation can take the tradition into the future. And yesterday, my college son received three phone calls, mine the earliest, to wish him Happy December 1st. And yes, Christmas with Conniff continued its reign.
I answer the phone Happy December 1st. That’s the day the Holiday Magic begins for me. And yesterday, I awoke my family with Conniff and donned my Disney Princess Santa Hat, along with my holiday Joy sweater and festive pink tights, to greet the Christmas Season my way.
I like Tradition. And December 1st also became my chosen day of Decoration. Now, when I was at Albion, I awoke my Flatmate Nina with a decorated room. Easy. One room. When I moved out on my own after college, I decorated my apartment and tiny tree on December 1st, making that my tradition. Again, small space done easily. Now, a few years later, I have 7 boxes of decorations and a house of many rooms and three stories to decorate.
It’s fun, don’t get me wrong. I play music and really get into it. But, no matter if I pack the items away by floor, there’s never a formula. I have to dust as I decorate, putting items away as I pull others out. And it takes time and creativity. But the tradition continues … Happy December 1st …
Yesterday, though, I looked around afterward and felt underwhelmed. I don’t know if it was my mood or the work and fatigue of spending 5 hours on this very physical decorating project. Maybe it was the photos on Facebook of others’ homes and their Christmas style that seemed so glorious and festive. But, gazing around, I felt like I hadn’t done enough.
That’s a theme of this season, I’ve discovered. We race around trying to create the perfect Christmas experience. We seek to capture that elusive Christmas Spirit we know we once had but that seems harder to find. When we don’t feel we’ve created it, something seems … off.
So, when I looked at all the photos of homes with candles and greenery, fireplaces decorated with glass bulbs and light, I felt as though my decorations paled in comparison. They simply created clutter in an already cluttered up space. I had failed Christmas 101 and it was only December 1st. How would I create the Magic when I’d already missed the mark?
Okay, I don’t have a fireplace mantle. And my 7 boxes of decorations feature few candles and no greenery or glass bulbs. Instead, most of my decorations are handcrafted. Mr. Eckert, a dear family friend, made many of them. He carved beautiful wooden angels, nativity scenes, reindeer, wreaths, a puzzle piece Christmas tree and other seasonal favorites. Then there are the creations my kids made, including Christmas trees crafted from cloth hearts, styrofoam cup bells, tissue paper wreaths, and cut out gingerbread men made from sandpaper. I have a few festive Santas, a collection of Boyd’s Angels, a small Dickens village set up on the piano, and various cards with messages of meaning that I display in picture frames.
Yet, my home didn’t smell of pine and didn’t give off that golden glow. So, I felt a rush of failure. My Christmas looked messy and not at all like the Victorian Ideal I had in my mind.
But … the greatest gift of Christmas was Homemade. A baby. The truest gift of Christmas came out of Love that arrived not at some super-sanitized hospital ward but in a dirty, cluttered stable. The first Christmas was messy and involved Shepherds and starlight. So … maybe my Handcrafted Cluttered Christmas decor was in line with the messy birth of a baby a long time ago in a stable in Bethlehem. Imperfect look but full of an inner light and great love.
My Christmas decorations are items handcrafted with Love … wooden knick knacks and cross-stitch Angels, Santas and 12 Bears of Christmas, projects that took many hours to create and that are beautifully framed. And Nonnberg Abbey in the Dickens Village, along with so many Eckert creations, remind me of friends and family who touched my lives and retain a special place in my heart for always.
So then, I looked around again. Wooden Angels line my windows, my diffuser emits the beloved Young Living Christmas Spirit oil, and cross-stitched Christmas socks hang from nails on doorways. These are the works of Heart. My home was decorated with heart. And, when I let go of the ideal and stop seeking to create perfection … when I truly zone in and remember that Christmas was created to show the Love our Father holds for each of us, imperfect beings that we are … If I can just remember not to seek the perfection of a Hallmark kind but instead reach out to others in Love …. well, perhaps I can finally capture that elusive Christmas Spirit and allow its healing light to Sparkle through my fingertips and touch others.
Christmas for me is created with Knick Knacks and Wood. But each piece tells a story … each decoration means something. Just like the many people who’ve played roles in the theatrical production of my life over the years. And yes, they will get dusty and yes, they do create clutter — people and things. But life is full of clutter, dust and distraction. It’s choosing to honor your own traditions and let go of an ideal of perfection that helps you find the Magic, the Love and the Light that sets this time of year apart.
Happy December 2nd …