Lining the aisles in front of me were Christmas trees. Christmas. In November. Given that the previous night I had been greeted by witches and princesses and baby bunnies at the door asking for candy, the Christmas rush seemed rather premature.
Perhaps that’s why I have such a hard time getting in the Christmas spirit. It is not that I dread Christmas; on the contrary, it’s one of my favourite times of year. But when Christmas lasts months and months, with all its commercialism, sometimes even the lure of Grandma’s mashed potatoes and gravy can’t bring me out of my Scrooge-like mood.
This year I’ve had an even tougher time than usual, partly because I haven’t been doing much shopping. When the children in your family hit the teen years, cash and gift cards replace the Christmas feeling I used to get when fighting for parking spaces in crowded malls. Combine that with extra work deadlines in December, and others I know are coming in January, and Christmas receded far in the back of my mind.
So it was that a few weeks ago I decided to confront my lack of Christmas spirit by finally putting up the Christmas tree. This year my daughters decided they wanted the tree to actually look attractive, rather than something out of a flea market, which is more the norm when one has as many homemade decorations as we are blessed with. In a pique of decorating frenzy, they tried to only hang decorations that co-ordinated. Yet somehow my 35-year-old Baby Jesus Birthday Cake candle holders still made the cut, as did the homemade glitter stars with pictures of the girls as toddlers. Looking perfect, I guess, is never as satisfying as meaningful memories.
Our eclectic family tree was up, but I was still feeling distinctly un-Christmaslike. I decided drastic action was required, so when a group from church announced they were carolling last weekend, I went along. Nothing like getting in the Christmas spirit as singing songs to strangers while one’s toes freeze!
Ambition and energy returning, I grabbed the flour and the eggs and started baking, including a concoction of chocolate chip cheesecake squares which may cause one nephew to ask for sweets in lieu of cash. And now, as the actual day approaches, I’m finally feeling excited.
Excited about family, and mashed potatoes, and turkey, and Grandma’s gravy—even if sitting around the family table can also be bittersweet, since it’s also a stark reminder of who is no longer with us.
Excited about Christmas morning, when I’ll be surrounded by just my girls, and my man, and my mom, with cups of hot chocolate overflowing.
And most of all, excited about having a whole week with nothing to do except read, play games, gaze at old ornaments, and contemplate life. The Christmas season, after all, confronts us with powerful questions. Is life really just about money and stuff, or is it about love? Is family a refuge and haven, or is work most important? And is there something beyond the daily grind, a question one can really only ask during those few days when the daily grind actually stops. One word that keeps popping through my mind is gratitude: gratitude for family, for the blessing of living in this amazing country, and for the blessings of a God who loved us enough to enter into this world with us as a tiny baby. So I need to ask this year: why did it take so long for me to feel this gratitude and get in the Christmas spirit? Now that I’m finally here, I want the peace and the joy to last all year.
Merry Christmas, everybody.
You can find Sheila celebrating at facebook.com/Sheila.gregoire.books.