You've heard the expression, "His eyes are bigger than his stomach," when it comes to someone taking more food than they can eat. Well, when it comes to Christmas decorating, I have more "want to" than "can do" it seems. It's a common problem for many people. Part of my frustration, also like many, is that the "can do" is a smaller amount than in years past.
It seems that I need to sit back and take some of my own advice. This weekend, I came across something I wrote many years ago, back when I had kids at home and was working full-time, but it rang true for me today. It's from my book, "As We Wait," an Advent book that shares about the symbols and customs of Advent, while at the same time, reminding the reader of the real reason for the season.
There are many decorating traditions. One of my absolute “must-do” traditions is the official “Hanging of the Greens” at church, marking the beginning of the Advent season for me as long as I can remember.
My mother’s rule was that decorations could not go up until December. The boxes of decorations lined the downstairs hallway after Thanksgiving, but they were just waiting. She was just as picky that it be put away by New Year’s Eve in order to start the year “fresh.”
She must have worked nonstop on December 1st. When we got home from school, the house would be totally transformed. There would be wreaths on the front door, candles in the windows, the crèche was set up, stockings were hung, and Christmas music would be playing. She even changed the curtains in the kitchen. We had red curtains used only at Christmastime.
Some families decorate their houses to look like magical fairylands. Others have a calmer approach. I liked putting up garland and red bows on our picket fence and a wreath on the door because most of my decorating was inside. (It looked wonderful when it snowed!)
On Christmas Night, my mom would say, “Let’s go look at Christmas lights,” as if it were a new idea. Since we did this every year, it was hardly a surprise. My dad drove us around downtown Nashville to see the store windows with animated decorations. I loved seeing the tall office buildings with messages spelled out with the darkened rooms. Then we always drove around looking at decorated houses. I tried doing this with my own children but it was harder to find as many decorated houses during the years people cut back on energy so we never developed that tradition. More people do it now.
The process of decorating is sometimes a part of the joy. Others may dread that part but enjoy the result. I have always enjoyed relaxing in a room lit only by the lights of the Christmas tree. It is so pretty and peaceful.
In the centuries before Christ was born, it was common to decorate houses with evergreens, holly, and wreaths as a symbol of life. To the ancient Romans, evergreens such as holly and fir trees represented peace and joy. These were adopted by the early Christians to symbolize eternal life. We still use these things today.
It does not matter what you do or do not do when it comes to decorating. It may suit your lifestyle best to put a wreath on your door or lights on an existing ficus tree if anything. Perhaps you know of someone that would like decorations but cannot put them up. You would probably enjoy it as much as the other person would if you offered to help put them up. (Return to put them away when the season ends.)
My parents had a real tree but only for a week. My lifestyle is different. I work full time, run all the errands, we traveled after Christmas, and we prefer to enjoy the decorations for a longer time. For me, artificial trees are used and they may be up until Epiphany. I wait until after December 1, but it may be days later.
The important thing is not to follow a tradition for the sake of following it. Traditions offer a certain sense of order and stability, but if they are followed only because you always have and they have become a burden, it is time to consider alternatives and find your best fit.
A prayer for today
Lord, be in my heart this season in all that I see and do. Help me remember that it is the spirit of the season that matters. Thank you for Jesus who brings us such joy.
This is from my book, "As We Wait,"
an Advent book that shares personal
stories while it teaches about the symbols
and customs of Advent. At the same time,
we are reminded of the of the real reason
for the season. It's been recently updated.