My Christmas, freshly-cut

Posted on January 1, 2015

I love Christmas and the entire holiday season. But I don’t love the madness that can accompany it.

At the beginning of the season we, like most families, decorate our home. This is supposed to be a pleasurable experience shared by the whole family, right? Wrong. Somehow, it has turned into eighteen (EIGHTEEN!!) totes and boxes of ornaments, lights, decorations, dishes, towels, trains, florals and figurines.

These cumbersome crates are unearthed by my husband from the depths of crawlspace hell and then quickly abandoned for me to deal with while everyone remains at school or work. How we acquired this much “Christmas” without my noticing is beyond me, but there I was, totally overwhelmed and slightly hysterical. I don’t do well with “stuff”. You know, bits and bobs, knick-knacks or theme-y things, so I decided that very day to reduce our Christmas clutter quotient by at least half.

But first, I needed some fresh air. Armed with pruning shears and a large eco bag I made my way to the park to snip some fresh boughs of evergreen. It was a cold, but a sparkly, sunny day and the kids were romping around with our little dog as I collected a few snippets of cedar, spruce and pine. We returned home for hot chocolate all rosy-cheeked and happy and the fragrance of evergreen through wafting the house was divine. I put some boughs in a large crystal vase and added in some pinecones, berries, snowy branches and white flowers. Stunning! That, I thought, looked and smelled a lot like Christmas! And the entire thing can be tossed in the organic bin at the end of the season. Nothing to stow away but the vase. Perfect!

After my outing and still in a reflective mood, I sat down with tea, paper and pen and made a list entitled Charity’s Christmas Essentials. After a few moments of quiet contemplation, I wrote the things that make Christmas feel Christmasy to me. What makes it real? It’s funny what came out of this simple exercise: Little white twinkle lights, the smell of the tree and freshly-cut greenery, lots and lots of candles, baking cookies from scratch, listening to Christmas carols and spending time with my family and friends. That was it. Decorations, with the exception of the tree, did not even make the list. Hmmm.

I decided to take Christmas back– after all, it’s my holiday too. I knew I did not wish to spend three days putting up decorations I already resent.¬†Women extend themselves even further during the holidays. There’s shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking, entertaining, decorating, volunteering and social engagements to jam into our already packed schedules. We cannot be expected to have, do and be everything all the time.¬† I mean, if you live to decorate, by all means, knock yourself out! For me, I would much rather be sipping wine and rolling out shortbread. To each her own. We must pick and choose our traditions wisely at this time of the year and, by the way, traditions are supposed to be something we keep doing because we actually enjoy them.

After this revelation I ruthlessly cut back our obscene collection of decorations, keeping only the treasured pieces. I baked lots of delicious cookies, but did not throw a huge party this year. I shopped and wrapped, but didn’t send out cards. And at school, I signed up to bring bags of chips for the classroom party. I usually bring in fancy cupcakes or some ridiculous veggie platter that gets totally ignored by the kids anyway. How liberating it was to drop off those bags of chips and a couple of plastic bowls!

In addition to our newly simplified Christmas routine, my hubs and I decided not to exchange gifts this year. At first I worried we would feel sad on Christmas morning, but it was refreshing somehow. Neither of us had to run around town trying to find that perfect thing, or perhaps more accurately, after the realization that there is no perfect thing, to find any one thing that might be suitable. Instead of that strangely hollow feeling of “Merry Christmas, here is some material stuff that in no way reflects the depths of my love for you, but it’s Christmas so…” we were filled with gratitude for each other, our happy, healthy kids, our beautiful home, our family and friends etc. It actually felt amazing.

And that is the story of my freshly-cut (back) Christmas and simplified holiday season. We capped it off by saying in for New Year’s and doing absolutely nothing. A simple supper followed by music and drinks with family in front of the fire.