That is how I decided to approach the holidays this year: bit by bit. For the past several years (okay, maybe more than several, since I can't think back to when I wasn't stressed by the upcoming Christmas hoopla/family obligations) I have not had holiday spirit. Oh, I've looked forward to celebrating Jesus' birth, so maybe I had the right holiday spirit, just not the one that society considers spirit. Most of my relatives sure don't seem to think so.
Anyway, I have not looked forward to the purchasing of gifts to give, the decorating, the sending of cards, the baking, the mandatory appearances at family gatherings with my parents and sibling as well as DH's siblings and mother, in a long, long time. Which is sad, because when my children were little, we did a lot of baking and decorating together, and it was fun times. Somewhere between the youngest one hitting first grade and the eldest graduating from high school (they are 8 grades apart), I lost the joyful anticipation of Christmas. It was not joy, it was not fun, it was work. More stuff to try to get done when I was all ready so overloaded. Or, at least, I felt so very overloaded. Like I had to measure up to someone else's standard of spirit, and I just couldn't hit that mark.
So, when Thanksgiving rolled around this year, and DD1 asked me when I was going to decorate for Christmas, I put her off, saying "Well, Advent hasn't even started yet. So definitely not until then."
She accepted this. She's been going to church since she was two days old. She knows that the first Sunday of Advent is the true start to the holiday season. That Advent is the beginning of the Christmas preparation, not the unlocking of the store doors at the start of the first Black Friday sale.
But it got me to thinking. Instead of dragging everything out in one fell swoop and spending an entire day unpacking our holiday decor, then placing it around the house, then putting away the storage boxes and bags, why not do it a little at a time? Kind of like an Advent calendar, where you open one door each day of Advent, until on Christmas morning all the doors are opened. Why couldn't I decorate bit by bit, throughout Advent, until all my decorations were in place on Christmas?
I made a list of the things I decorate with (I confess, I made the list while sitting in the maple tree on the last day of firearm deer season, LOL). Amazingly, it came out to roughly 25 items, which is how many days there are in Advent. What a coincidence!
Suddenly, Christmas didn't seem quite so oppressive. Didn't seem like such a Herculean task ahead of me. I could do this!
And so I have. First came the small, plain trees. One is a wooden pine tree that DD1 painted in youth group many years ago. The other is a beeswax candle molded in the shape of a spruce tree. Both are less than nine inches tall. Both happen to fit very nicely on the entertainment center, at the bottom left corner of the TV. It was such a little thing, placing those two trees in the living room by the TV, but it made the house feel more cheery. I had begun decorating for Christmas.
Day by day, I have set out or hung on the walls other little things: a plastic canvas angel with a banner reading "PEACE" that my grandmother made for me decades ago, the rustic wooden snowman faces--bearing the names of DH and myself and each of our children--that hang from a ribbon and was a gift from an aunt and uncle after DD2 was born, the paper Christmas tree made from old Christmas card fronts by one of the kids so long ago none of us really remember who made it in what grade, the stained glass angel that holds a votive candle that was a gift from one of my students back when I taught 5th & 6th grade Sunday School, the gold "present" that is a music box and was another gift from a former Sunday School student, the small red bows that tie to the spindles of the banister for the stairs going to our second floor, the wreath that is hung on the front door by a golden deer bracket that fits over top of the door, the fake pine garland over the doorway between the dining room and living room. . .
All little things, but in their insignificance lies their charm: it is just one little thing to put out today, taking no more than five minutes of my time. Not Herculean at all. And as the days go by and their numbers grow, I find that I am enjoying this holiday season more than I have in years. Each item, taken by itself, has meaning to me. I think about how I came to own each item, who made it or gave it to me, and how much each of those people have touched my life.
Bit by bit. Really, isn't that the way we get through everything in life?