Skip to main content

Christmas ornaments and simplifying the holidays

Each year, we pick a special ornament that represents something about the past year for Anna and Taylor.  This can be an ornament from the collection we already have, a small toy that belongs to them that we could hang on the tree, a handmade ornament or a new purchase to add to the collection. 


Taylor's special ornament collection 

This is one of my all time favorite ornaments in the kids' collections.  It was an ornament I had bought just because it was cute, and Taylor asked if it could be his ornament for 2013 last year. 
This little elf with shorts on and the little legs sticking out from the bottom was perfect to remember this season in which Taylor wears shorts 99% of the time.  

2014 ornament that we just added to our collection. 


2006 ornament 
2008 ornament to commemorate that Anna dressed up as Wonder Woman 
for Halloween and her birthday that year 

2009 ornament 
(because what's not to love about pink sparkles!) 

Hermione Lego in honor of our love for Harry Potter in 2011 and beyond 

2013 for Poppy joining our family last year 

2014 ornament for Anna being first chair in junior band 

We hung the ornaments on the bannister going up the stairs since we did not get a tree this year.  We were only going to be here at our house for 2 1/2 weeks before we head out of town so we decided to simplify, and I am so glad we did. 

In lieu of a Christmas tree, we pulled this out of the basement from the last few Christmases which is just a tomato cage with Christmas lights woven throughout, and it is adding the same twinkling glow that we've enjoyed from our trees in the past.  One whole box was left unpacked with fun ornaments, but we can save that for another year.   And to be honest, I have not missed it. In a month when I have had a lot of deadlines and projects to complete for work, it was simply one less thing to add to our lists and to the three ring circus that December can feel like, and this freedom is indeed a gift I'll gladly take for Christmas. 

Andi Saccoccio, one of the pastors at our church shared this last Sunday:
"What the church calendar tells us is the season for hope and expectation has become a season of frenzy and disappointment. Christmas hope has become as artificial as the lights we string up in our desperate attempt to regain some of the light that the shortened winter days have taken from us. And sadly our lives can feel most empty during the very season when we celebrate God’s desire to fill them." 

This post below from one of my favorite writers Brene Brown is so poignant for the holidays as we consider what traditions we put into place and what things we need to lay aside for the sake of our own sanity and our family's peace of mind.  We don't have to do things at all costs. It's okay to let some things go and enjoy the freedom that comes from those choices.  


I have a terrible memory from last Christmas that I’m planning to use as a touchstone to help us create a merrier holiday this year.
I was sitting at my kitchen table addressing 225 Christmas cards, Charlie was crying in his room because I told him that I couldn’t read “the reindeer book” to him until I finished the cards, and Ellen was upset and sitting alone in the dark living room because it was once again too late to start a “Polar Express” family movie night. I don’t remember the detail of Steve’s whereabouts, but I think he was out doing last-minute teacher gift shopping.
At some point the sulking and crying was too much so I stood up and yelled, “I’m sorry. I HAVE to finish these cards! They’re not going to address themselves! Everyone wants to send them but I’m the one who has to make it happen!”
The house got very quiet.
I wish I could tell you that wisdom washed over me and I put the cards away. I’d love to end the story by writing, “I gathered my children in my arms, we drank hot cocoa, and I read from one of our lovely Christmas books.”
Nope. I was like, “Thank God. It’s quiet.”
I remember telling myself, “Oh, well. The show must go on.”
And it did. The cards went out. The presents were wrapped. The cookies baked. We were at everyone’s houses as scheduled.
It was exhausting and I was just waiting for it to be over.
Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t the victim of this holiday circus, I was the ringmaster.
We live in a world where life can easily become pageantry, and the best performers make it look balletic and effortless. Of course, there’s no such thing as an effortless holiday show. If you sneak a peek behind most people’s red velvet curtains at holiday time, you’ll often see houses brimming with anxiety, maxed-out credit cards, crying children, and marriages that make the cold war look warm and fuzzy.
I’m convinced that the only way out of this is by cancelling the show. Not canceling the holiday, but giving up the show.
For us, that means making some changes. We do love our holiday cards, but this year we’ll make a party out of addressing envelopes and I won’t insist on doing it myself so it’s “right.” PS – If you’re on our list, your cards will arrive sometime between mid-December and Valentine’s Day.
After 20 years of drawing names at our big family holidays, we’ve decided to only buy for the kids and to keep the gifts small and meaningful. We’re also going strictly homemade (us or Etsy) for teacher and neighbor gifts. And, most importantly, we will make a list of all of the holiday family things that we want to do together and those will take priority.
Rathering than always insisting that, “The show must go on!” I’m going to ask these two questions: “Is this a part of us or part of the show?” and “Does it really need to go on?”  I think our holiday will be better for it.
When our lives become pageants, we become actors. When we become actors, we sacrifice authenticity. Without authenticity, we can’t cultivate love and connection. Without love and connection, we have nothing.
The phrase, “The Show Must Go On” originated in the 19th century with circuses. If an animal got loose or a performer was injured, the ringmaster and the band tried to keep things going so that the crowd would not panic.
This year there will be no band. No ringmaster. We’re going to say “yes” to small and quiet and “no” to the three-ring circus. That’s not to say that there won’t be panic and loose animals. That’s a given around here.



Joy to the world.... 
Merry Merry Christmas! 


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Gumdrop Tree

In my family growing up, my grandmother had a gumdrop tree.  My mother had a gumdrop tree.  And when I got married, I was given a gumdrop tree at a Christmas wedding shower.  The first one I had was a chintzy see-through plastic tree that was in a box that said "money tree".  I guess some people tied money to the branches as a way to give cash as a gift.  But in our family, this small plastic object was pulled out each year and gumdrops were stuck to the ends of the branches.  The bottom tray held a bunch of gumdrops under the tree for the extras that would not fit on the branches. I loved my daily ritual in December of passing by the gumdrop tree that was placed in the hallway outside the kitchen and of snatching a few gumdrops.  (Note to anyone who tries this: You can always conceal your snacking by restocking the empty branches with gumdrops from the tray. Your real challenge comes when the tray is empty. Good luck on that one.) 
Here's the description I found on Ama…

Taylor's Crossing

Our boy is turning 13 this month so we've been intentional about trying to create something that would fit his personality and that would speak to his heart to help mark this "crossing" year.  We did a more elaborate version of this for his sister, Anna, but he made it very clear that he did not want the same kind of pageantry.  
As we thought about how to tweak some of our ideas that we'd put in place before, we still had some of the same goals that we'd had for Anna.  The ultimate message that we wanted him to hear and remember was that he is loved. One small thing we did in preparation to drive this home was that we had him memorize Psalm 139 over a period of a few months as this passage is a beautiful reminder of God's love for us and His presence with us.  
We also wanted Taylor to know that as he turned from 12 to 13 into the realm of being a teenager that he was not doing this alone. We wanted him to know that he has a team of people who are with him, ch…

The Crossing

When Anna was about 18 months old, I was invited to a service called “The Crossing” that a family from our church put together for their 13 year old son. As Christians do not have a particular rite of passage like in the Jewish tradition of having a Bar Mitzvah, they wanted to mark this time in his life of turning 13 and entering adolescence with a significant ceremony.  The year leading up to this event was one that involved a year-long service project, a retreat with some significant people in his life, a father/son trip, and a service at our church.   They also gathered a group of people when their son turned 12 and asked them to commit to praying for their son through the year up until his 13th birthday, and then these people gathered around his 13th birthday to speak words of blessing to him.   Since they took the whole year to do all these things, it was not overwhelming, and their intentionality helped to make this a very memorable rite of passage. 
Going to this event made such…