The other day I heard a woman say that she decorates her house for Christmas on the Friday after Thanksgiving and then takes everything down on December 26th. While I think people should observe the season as best they see fit, I have to say this approach to the holidays strikes me as supremely wrong-headed.
I know, I know. If you've had a tree up since late November, it's a definite fire hazard by the day after and you need to get it down. I get that part.
And I also know that a lot of folks celebrating Christmas are not religious, and so they're free to say "Game over" whenever they want. I get that, too.
Still, the idea of Christmas skidding to a halt at midnight December 25th is depressing. To me, Christmas really, truly begins on Christmas Eve. Before then, you might have some Christmas moments--feelings of good will when someone lets you cut into traffic, small moments of peace, especially when you hear Nat King Cole sing "O Holy Night" while you're making Christmas cookies--but not that deep, holy feeling of Christmas.
Do you know the feeling I mean? I was not a particularly religious child, but I remember getting that holy feeling as my brothers and I delivered loaves of banana bread for my mother late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. The sky would be that glorious pink sinking into purple as we set out, and you could see the neighbors' trees in their windows. My brothers and I would sing Christmas carols and wonder outloud how we'd ever fall asleep that night. It would be dark by the time we got home. We'd turn out all the lights in the living room and sit in front of the tree until dinner, everything hushed and magical.
I don't think you have to have religious faith to get that holy feeling. I think it's there for everyone, free of charge, a gift from God. We may have given up on church, call ourselves "spiritual but not religious," call ourselves nothing at all, but we still seek out those moments where our souls feel at peace.
In my family, we begin decorating two weeks before Christmas, but the true desire to decorate doesn't hit me until the 22nd or 23rd. Yesterday I hung tinsel in living room. It felt like I was getting ready for a party. Which, I suppose, I was. The party will really begin Christmas Eve and will go on for days after Christmas, as we feast and celebrate, sing and play.
I will think of that woman in her naked living room, her life gone back to normal, her party already over.
Yesterday, I started thinking about the books I got for Christmas as a child. Little Women, A Little Princess, Mandy by Julie Andrews, Island of the Blue Dolphins. I think my father--it would have been my father who bought the books--went to the bookstore and said, "What are the best books for a girl to read?"
I still get lots of books for Christmas, and the days after Christmas are a reading fest for me. The food is cooked, the house is cleaned, I'm not doing laundry. I'll take breaks to play games with the boys and to grab some more Chex mix, but mostly what I'll do is read, read, read.
I expect this will be my last post before Christmas. I hope your Christmas is lovely, filled with light, joyous, holy, healing, and, of course, merry. Rejoice!
Dirt, milk, communion.
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