When the first week in Advent arrives, I hang our Moravian Star on the front porch. I take down our American flag and put a Moravian Christmas flag in its place. I put electric Christmas candles in the forward-facing windows of our house. We put wreaths (artificial) over those windows and dress up Stoney, our concrete porch cat.
|Stoney still goes the full Santy...|
For as long as I can remember, we bought an annual Christmas tree (real) and decorated it. Our fireplace mantles turned into something resembling award-winning shop displays.
And Kim let loose in the kitchen, making labor-intensive sugar cakes and whatnot.
Or rather, she used to.
Slowly, over the past few years, we began downsizing Christmas.
I'm not quite sure how or when it happened. It could have been the year that Kim's mother passed away. That happened in May of 2009 and nobody in our house was feeling much like Christmas that year. No tree. Minimal decorating. Limited gift buying.
Hey, wait a minute. There suddenly seemed to be some sanity in our sadness. The tedious chore of packing everything back up was gone. So was a lot of the stress.
A couple more Christmases came and went without trees or cookies, and — surprise — we really didn't miss them.
Now hold on a second. Before we're accused of being Grinchy, let me make it clear we're still planning on going to a Christmas Eve candlelight service in Winston-Salem, just as we have in past years. That service, more than anything else, fills me with Christmas.
We've already been to several holiday parties, so we've been quite social with our friends. And I still look forward to seeing the standard Christmas movies – I know I'm going to cry when Clarence gets his wings. I love it when Scrooge sees the light. Certain Christmas tunes still strike a chord within me. Some traditions simply are inviolate.
Nevertheless, the irony here for me seems to be that the less wrapped up I get in Christmas, the more I feel its warmth and significance.
And maybe that's the point.