There is this song that I used to sing when I was a kid.
Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.
I’d like to think that song applies to more than just friendship. Maybe - just maybe - it applies to Christmas traditions.
When I was a kid, there were just two of us - me and my grandmother. And when we added my uncle who came home from the army, there were three - a hodgepodge of crazy, all wrapped up under one roof. Even though our “family” was small, we had traditions. The tree was always up by mid-November, and stayed up until mid-January. Our little four foot tree sat on top of our giant console television right in front of the window, at the exact height where the window was from the floor. And unless you came inside our house, you’d never know from the street that our tree wasn’t 8 feet tall.
The tree skirt was a simply white sheet to resemble snow. We hung the popsicle sleigh that I made in kindergarten, gaudy gold glitter and glass ornaments with sentimental value, and always had a 4-inch nativity scene with sprayed-on-sparkle snow at the very bottom of the tree, on top of the “snow blanket,” propped up at just the right angle.
Christmas Eve, we were allowed to open one present - not of our choosing - at the EXACT moment that the tree lights turned on for the evening and the rest had to wait until Christmas morning. I remember baking sugar cookies one year, and freezing them in the freezer so “they’d last until Christmas”… and then sneaking one at a time out of the freezer as my grandmother fake-scolded me from the living room. You’d swear her bionic ears could hear the Ziploc bag opening from the next town over.
When I got married, my husband and I merged our family traditions. In the spirit of “no holiday left behind” we adopted his tradition that the tree can’t go up for Christmas until Thanksgiving has had its glory day. The “one present on Christmas Eve” tradition became new Christmas PJ’s for everyone, to ensure a good night’s sleep before the exciting day ahead. The long-gone ornaments from my childhood have been replaced with toddler fingerprints from my kiddos and button wreaths from three years ago and the snowflakes we cut last year. We have an elf (Elfie) but he’s not an elf on the shelf - he’s just an elf, and he comes and sits in the tree to keep watch on the kids the last few weeks before Christmas.
So here we are, two weeks before Christmas, with a million things on our to-do list. Presents to buy and parties to prep for, choir music to practice, and last minute “Can you make me a reindeer costume for our play that is oh-by-the-way TOMORROW?”
Long to-do-lists make us grumpy and steal our shine. There’s not enough caffeine and not enough hours and not enough SHINE between here and EASTER to get it all done, so here’s my proposal.
Let’s not.
Let’s not get it all done. Crazy, you say? Maybe. Or maybe it’s the only thing NOT crazy proposal about this season. The things I remember most about Christmas as a child aren’t going here and going there and having perfectly placed things around the house. It’s the year we carried real candles down the church aisle in the Christmas cantata. It’s the one present we opened but only after the lights came on. It’s the manger on top of the snow blanket, and the Christmas candy in the silver candy bowl and watching “The First Christmas” snuggled up on the couch.
Let me encourage you to not worry about having a Pinterestly-perfect Christmas. To make some new traditions, and keep some old, for one is silver and the other's gold. Let me encourage you to not let your to-do-list steal your shine.
The thing my daughter remembers most about last year is the night we hopped in the car without the boys, randomly drove to a neighborhood, and sang acapella Christmas carols at the homes of random strangers. With that random caroling event in mind, we made a list this year of all the things we wanted to do to have the perfect Christmas. We skipped the drive-through light-show and (thanks to not having a mantle for the first time in thirteen years) have two boxes of decor that is still in the boxes. No one has noticed. Instead of the things I *thought* the family would put on the list, they made this super amazing list of nothing that Pinterest makes you think the perfect Christmas is made of. The kids want to pay for someone’s dinner. And read a Bible verse on Christmas Eve. And play board games. And melt-my-heart - “maybe look at old family pictures.”
Wish List
If you think back to your own favorite Christmas memories, were they the ones where your schedule was full? Or were they the ones where you lived, and laughed, and snuggled, and played board games, had some random crazy adventure, and maybe didn’t worry so much about Christmas being picture-perfect? Your family will remember that kind of Christmas too. It’s not too late for you to make your own family Christmas Wish List. Not too late for you push that perfect-pinterest-project out til next year. Not too late for you to send your elf back to the North Pole. Not too late to adopt some random or simply-Christmas traditions that your family will look forward to every year.
We have two weeks left til Christmas. You can make it. We can make it. And if you chuck your entire to-do-list out the window and spend the next 14 days watching ABC Family snuggled under a family quilt { ahem, with your family } no one will judge you. In fact, they’ll probably be jelly that they didn't think of it first.
Shine On,