A writing colleague wrote about not being ready for Christmas – only one gift purchased, an injured husband, mental stress, a son’s illness, no tree, no decorations, and no time.
I was feeling the same way. My house was disorganized, finances were tight, and I had the worst flu, ever. However, the degree of my fever was not best measured by a thermometer.
The ultimate symptom of the terrible virus was me not wanting to decorate the house for Christmas.
No one was more surprised than I. My family laments the twenty some totes of stuff I haul out every Christmas. No one appreciates the hundreds of tree ornaments: one year my son counted over two hundred, mostly gifts. He wanted me to throw out the ornament if I could not remember the name of the person who had given it to me. Imagine! I told him I remembered the feeling I had when I received the gift, and that was all that mattered.
And it isn’t just the ornaments – or the number of trees (one year there were five). Or that I would go out in 20 below weather to try to throw a few lights on some tree branches so I would have outside lights.
It is the Christmas cookie tins piled on top of the kitchen cupboards. ‘Too many, too cluttered,’ my family comments, every year.
There is more. Garland with lights and teddy bears. Christmas towels and candles. Christmas books. Christmas throws and door-hangers. A welcoming large snow lady with a snow baby. Pine cones with lights, a glass bowl with coloured Christmas balls, and an Advent arrangement from left-over Christmas branches. Santa’s workshop, a church, and of course, a huge nativity scene.
‘STOP!’ my family would cry. But I don’t stop and I don’t listen. I love the ambience of Christmas and all it represents.
But not this year. I just did not care – or so I thought.
As Christmas Day marched ever closer, I realized that, deep down, I did want a Christmas tree. I wanted to be able to sit on the couch in a darkened room and look at the lights on the tree, beaming like a steady beacon, unchanging from year to year, even though the house and location might be different. They would shine the same as when I had gazed at them as a child, or later as a love-sick teenager, and now as a grandmother. Yes, I wanted a tree, but knew I did not have the energy to hang even twenty ornaments.
My family intervened, which is fortunate, for had they not, I might just have bought a string of lights and and randomly thrown it anywhere to create a semblance of Christmas for my grand kids.
My daughter-in-law put up a tree. My daughter took over the menu planning and most of the grocery shopping for our family Christmas get-together. I even managed to put up the nativity scene and garland with the teddy bears. Only five totes this year.
Most of all, my husband, Cliff, helped. He prepared meals. He bought his specialty groceries and shopped for the gifts for the grandkids.
Other years had not been so. Although supportive, Cliff had not always been able to help. I remember how hard the years were when Cliff had one of his numerous knee and/or hip surgeries and was out of commission at Christmas.
Those were dark years.
For the most hopeless of those Christmases, my oldest was three and the baby ten-months old. Cliff could hardly walk the length of a hallway, let alone prepare any food or go shopping. We were barely scraping by on his disability insurance and my part-time teaching salary. We warred against fleas and mice in our run-down rental property, and our December rent cheque bounced. The medical community could not agree on what was wrong with my husband’s hip. We couldn’t get a referral to Cliff’s surgeon, who we knew could help us as he had many times in the past. Our faith was frayed and tattered and our household was not always infused with love and joy. My husband, a man of the cloth, could not pray. He said the only light he could see at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming train.
Recently, we were discussing this Christmas with our eldest son, now grown. He vividly remembers this Christmas even though he had been only three years old. My husband and I were surprised – actually stunned – when my son said it was one of the best Christmases of his life.
We are not sure how that happened, but we are grateful that he has a good memory of that dismal season in our lives. I was thankful that we had been given strength, when we had none, to value our children and the season in spite of our dire circumstances. Perhaps we had done a better job than we thought of finding joy in each other and in that old house, which at least had a working wood stove to give it some coziness.
Many others are in similar situations this year.
One of our friends, Sarah Stewart, posted a picture of their Christmas tree. It is drawn on a big sheet of white paper, and Sarah and her kids coloured the tree green. Sarah writes:
We may have coloured out of the lines a bit. But not everything can be a hallmark card. And this is as real as it gets. This past year has been a real hard one. This Christmas may not have looked how we thought. We have a lot to be thankful for. So I had the kids say what we could be thankful for and put it on red hearts. Thankfulness brings perspective. If you are having a tough time this season just think of a couple things you can be thankful for. FaithHopeandLove❤️ Merry Christmas 🎄
These children are being given an opportunity to view this Christmas in a positive light because of their parents’ efforts to find the good in frustrating circumstances.
How can we do Christmas when we don’t feel like it?
Here are some suggestions I sent to my writing colleague with the injured husband. Another writing colleague suggested that I share them with you. Some of the options apply to anyone, including those will be alone, while others apply to a family. Make your own list, and perhaps you and/or your family will remember this year as the best Christmas ever!
* Find the bottom line of your strength. Stay there. Don’t try to give or do more.
* If your bottom line is nothing, eat grilled cheese sandwiches by candlelight.
* If you are with family, ask everyone to wrap a favourite thing. Then have each person unwrap his/her treasure and share why it is special.
* No gifts? Have everyone find something they love. Wrap it and give it to another family member as a gift.
* Act out the Christmas story – with costumes. Towels, bathrobes, dress-up clothes – you get the idea. Superman costumes will be great for the wisemen. Take selfies.
* Pop popcorn. String it if you can handle the mess. Or maybe just eat it.
* Watch videos and sleep.
* Remind yourself that the reality of the first Christmas story was a curious mixture of the bizarre, the difficult and the miraculous.
This season will pass. The day will pass.
Ask God for the miracles you need – strength, peace, a smile –
and then trust that He will give them to you.
You will be able to give your family the greatest gift ever:
the memory of a Christmas when life smelled like a stable but the angels kept singing.
Featured Image: pixabay Monicore
Christmas Tree: Sarah Stewart
Nativity Scene: pixabay Ambroz
Starry Sky: pixabay Geralt
Merry Christmas: pixabay Uki_71