A Christmas Story . . . or Two or Three

I got my tree and house decorated this weekend! I pulled an all-nighter to do it, but it was worth it. I had to add a couple strands of lights to the tree – well, actually five more – when I first checked the spacing, but after I did and turned them on, that’s when it hit. Ahhh, the Christmas spirit arrived! It’s the lights on the tree that bring the spirit of the season into the house for me.

People often decorate their trees with a theme. As I dragged out the boxes of ornaments, this year I specifically chose ornaments that held a story.

These were from Dad’s collection. I didn’t even remember I had them until I saw a box labeled ‘Dad’s Christmas ornaments’

There are those made by my children, my friends, local artisans, or artisans from places we’ve visited.

This one is hand-blown glass containing ash from the Mt. St. Helens eruption. I bought it as a gift for Hubby a few years ago after he took a trip out to WA and saw the volcano. This past fall we both made the trip out west, so it came out of the box this year.

Some have special memories: the purple and silver one is the last one my grandma gave me; the cardinal represents mom and dad. The pickle is part of our tradition of hiding the ornament, the finder receiving a special gift. The Nutcracker came after I took my daughter to see a local production of the ballet. She was four and danced between the rows of seats and into the aisle. The ball with the blue flag was produced the Christmas after 9/11. As we commemorated the 20th anniversary this year, it seemed appropriate to hang it.

Pickle Hunt in progress

And of course the Christmas spiders were ready to add when the Three Little Guys arrived Saturday evening. It will be another year before I tell them that story.

Saturday night I traded emails with a friend and told her I’d gotten the tree and house decorated. Her response: “You’re a late Christmas bloomer! I’m already tired of my decorations and listening to Christmas music . . .” My first thought, (well, besides being sad for her) was and that’s why my decorating doesn’t happen until now. I know not everyone feels the same about decorating early; my friend Jan had her beautiful tree up around Thanksgiving and I know her joy will last well into the New Year. Chances are mine would too. But after the quiet build-up of my Advent meditations and pushing through the guilt of not decorating Thanksgiving Day weekend, I absolutely loved the rush of joy and spirit when the lights came on Friday evening.  It wouldn’t have happened in the same way if decorating was something on a list that had to get done. The sensation was the accumulation and release of the Advent waiting.

Saturday evening was our family wigilia – the Polish Christmas Eve feast. The Three Little Guys are old enough to understand a bit more about the blessing and sharing of the oplatki before the meal. Oplatki is a wafer, embossed with a Christmas image–each person receives a portion. As a blessing before the meal, we offer our piece to everyone else, along with a blessing and holiday wish. We break off a piece of each others’ wafer as they extend the same to us. The Little Guys enjoyed the story of how we bless, break, and share, and one mentioned how much he liked the taste. They still didn’t want to taste the sauerkraut soup, but that first course isn’t the most important part of the traditional meal anyway.

Telling stories is a way we connect to one another, to our past, to our heritage. So many of our family stories are born out of love and that’s shared each time we tell them. Yesterday was the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of Love. We’re closing in on the whole purpose of the season – love. This week as we gather for Christmas may the stories flow and may new ones be written on our hearts.

For those experiencing the loss of a loved one, may you especially be surrounded by love and the stories that keep your loved ones close.

Tomorrow night is the winter solstice. I might just pull an all-nighter tomorrow night too – this time simply enjoying the lights that illuminate the longest night . . . not untangling them to string around the tree. A friend commented on an earlier post that her mom always told her, Good things come to those who wait. I agree.

Curious. What is it that finally brings the spirit of Christmas into your home and heart?

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