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Ever since I was a child, Christmas lights have cast a magical spell over me. Mood, color, ambiance– combined to create a winter fantasy.
This year Michael and I decided to scale back on the interior decorating and focus primarily on the exterior of the house– since that is what the most people see.
With the unseasonable warm weather we had this year, I was able to work on outdoor projects longer– like repairing and painting stairs and porches, all the way in to November. The trees held their leaves much longer this year, postponing yard clean up as well. So, I didn’t really start decorating until the week after Thanksgiving.
The majority of the decorating took approximately 60 hours over two and a half weeks. I used over 900 feet of garland, 10 artificial trees, 65 bows, thousands of LED lights, 24 egg strobes and 10 laser projectors to complete the effect outside. Every year it’s a little different, depending on time, resources and whatever mood strikes me.
Inside, I didn’t put up any traditional, full-size trees but did decorate 12 ‘stick’ and tabletop trees (3 ft. to 9 ft. tall) along with some mantle and stair garland. In the windows I used 27 LED snowflakes, 28 sets of icicle lights and 36 battery operated candles. I experimented with LED ‘curtain lights’ in 6 windows in place of Christmas trees I’d used in the past.
The lights will be on display through at least New Years’ weekend.
I really haven’t been in the Christmas mood this year. All the evil, hate and violence going on in the world has taken center stage– at least that’s all that is being spewed through the media. It has made me sad, angry and frustrated. What is wrong with people? It has made it really, really hard to find the Christmas spirit.
I’m so sick of Donald Trump… a hypocritical Congress that lies to the American people outright… and an uprising of action, based completely on fear of what might be versus what is. This is a dark moment in our history. Bah humbug!
So this morning I happened to come across the video of Jordan Smith, the recent winner of The Voice, and his version of Mary Did You Know trending in social media.
It’s good. Really good. Just not as good as Donny Osmond’s 1999 version.
I like Donny’s version best, not as much for his technique as for his passion and sincerity. It touches me. I think his rendition is a better fit for the true meaning of the song.
This led me to keep searching through my Christmas music. Actually, aside from the repetitive playlist on the FM station in my car… I haven’t listened to much Christmas music this year. And, I just hadn’t found my Christmas moment.
There’s always a single moment or two that defines Christmas for me each year. It’s usually something quiet and simple… and it’s not usually a moment I share. Mostly, because it’s a feeling, it’s personal– and that’s often just too hard to describe.
Anyway, this search through my playlist brought me to My Grown Up Christmas List one of my favorites of all time. In spite of my fondness for the song, I hadn’t listened to it this year.
So I clicked play on Kelly Clarkson’s version of the song… and there it was. My moment. Unexpected. Simple. Pure. A rush of emotion summing up all that I’d been feeling– melting my anger and frustration and giving way to hope. My Christmas moment.
This song says it all. We claim to be a civilized society. At this time of year, if at no other, I would hope people would search their hearts and find what is truly important.
Peace. Hope. Love. Giving. Sharing.
And perhaps most important of all– living without fear.
Have you mailed your Christmas cards yet? Do you send them out or have you stopped altogether? What if you could actually save the world; or perhaps closer to home- a life — by the simple act of mailing a holiday card? The title of this post may seem a little over dramatic but I stand by the sentiment and I’ll explain why.
No, there is no gimmick or marketing ploy here. I don’t work for a greeting card company and I make this suggestion out of sincere concern for where our society is headed. We are rapidly tossing out traditions in the name of progress and the overused phrase, ‘being more politically correct’. We can say we’re too busy or we’re saving money…. but why not be willing to say you’re too lazy or just don’t care?
I’m not judging anyone here. I realize this just isn’t important to some people. If you choose not to send out cards– for whatever reason; that’s fine by me. BUT– if I can encourage you to just consider participating in this time-old tradition… then it was worth my time.
I just read an opinion piece by someone who is sending out their cards (this year) for the last time. Some of their justifications are: a) not getting enough cards in return, b) thinking the recipient will be disappointed if there isn’t a gift card or cash inside, c) it takes too much effort, and d) it’s easier to just send a message online.
I understand how someone might come to these conclusions but I also think they are shallow assumptions and, well– just plain wrong. I also see some of those excuses as just plain selfishness.
Who doesn’t like receiving Christmas cards? (Unless, it’s because it makes you feel guilty for not mailing them out?) The comments from people attached to the above mentioned story all disagreed with the author’s perceptions and want to receive cards. They like this traditional token of holiday cheer.
So how can a silly thing like sending a card save the world?
Here are a few of my points to consider:
- Communicate, connect, share. Show someone you care. Isolation can be a terrible thing. Your act of thoughtfulness could be the only positive thing someone experiences today. You may be reaching out to someone in desperate need. Someone you know may be feeling completely alone and disenfranchised. You’re card could go a long way to brighten someone’s day.
- So much Conservative emphasis is on the cause of world problems being the fault of the breakdown of the family. One of the ways families stay connected is through holidays and traditions. As society places less value on the family, society starts to fail. Whether it’s a biological family, chosen family or coming together as a community— society needs ways to connect that are positive and unite us– giving us strength. Eliminate traditions… eliminate family and a peaceful society is the next to go.
- Can’t afford to send everyone gifts? Why not a simple, heartfelt note inside a card? This can mean so much more than a gift that will soon be forgotten. A few kind words letting someone know you are thinking of them can go a long way.
- The Christmas card tradition keeps many people in different industries employed. Authors, artists & designers, sales, marketing, transportation… all benefit.
- “It’s easier to say Merry Christmas on Facebook.” Yes, it is easier. It takes no effort at all. I’m not belittling the sentiments– I’m saying it isn’t the same thing. AND– not everyone will see it. If that’s your substitution– it isn’t working.
- “Christmas cards are a waste of money and negatively affect the environment.” Not true. Many cards are made of recycled paper and can be recycled again. The paper industry, by it’s very existence, contributes positively to the environment through replanting and maintaining forests and environmental systems.
- “Christmas cards aren’t PC.” Really? The celebration of Christmas goes far beyond religion. How many people do you believe are really offended by Christmas cards? If this is a concern of yours: How about a generic holiday card? It’s the idea behind the card that counts. It’s letting someone know you are thinking about them.
Sure, a Christmas card can be viewed as a small, meaningless thing. How about parades? Can we get rid of those next? And Fourth of July fireworks? Do we really need to celebrate birthdays anymore? If you take cards, along with many other small, meaningless things away– what are you replacing it with? What do you have left? We are slowly chipping away at many of the elements that have allowed society to connect and to function successfully for many years. Individually, they don’t seem like much but they are a small part of a whole.
It’s all about living and sharing.
Call, write, visit…connect. let someone know you care.
Here’s an idea: I’ll go one better… you can get rid of Christmas cards but throw an annual holiday party for all your family and friends instead. Is there any better way to connect and express your appreciation than in person? Holidays are for sharing. Nothing is better than being there and sharing an experience. Only, you’ll have to make sure they’ll all be able to attend on the date you select.
Of course, you’ll also have to send out invitations…. which is a card…
It was hot and uncomfortable where we sat, in folding chairs, on a dimly lit stage. We were all turned upstage, facing an old, out-of-tune piano. Our music teacher, Mrs. Blanchard, came in– carrying her usual load of music and instruments. She was followed by the scent of her trademark perfume, Tabu– choking us all, within minutes of her arrival.
She asked one of my classmates to help pass out the freshly mimeographed copies of the Christmas medley she’d put together for us to perform at our Christmas concert, in just a few weeks. Us, sing? In a concert? We were quite a motley crew. While most of us tried to sing, my friend Alex was busy trying to distract everyone. Always the class clown.
Mrs. Blanchard would try to ignore him. Often she’d grab him by the ear or the arm and make him sit on the bench next to her– which usually only made things worse.
She’d give him the evil eye and turn her back to us, facing the piano. Her long, manicured nails would click and clack on the keys of the piano as she would bang out the notes, trying to teach us harmony:
Spinning the dial from station to station,
We hear Christmas songs old,
And some that are new…
Mrs. Blanchard, would stop and look at us, usually grimacing; her painted on eyebrows raised. It was a look that put fear into us. A look, that would sometimes melt into a smile, sending audible sighs of relief around the room. At times, she reminded us of the witch in the Wizard of Oz; but we loved her and wanted to please her.
Somehow, we did managed to put on a Christmas concert that year. I played the drum for The Little Drummer Boy. And it was magical.
One year– I think it was kindergarten, I was a toy soldier. Years later, I played Joseph in the nativity. Christmas concerts, church cantatas and pageants were a big part of my growing up.
I can still remember believing in Santa and the anticipation of gifts on Christmas morning. I remember my sister and I sneaking into my parents’ closet— trying to steal a peak at our hidden gifts.
But, what I remember most about Christmas— was the lights. I still have vivid memories of seeing the amazing Christmas lights and giant Christmas cards that surrounded the Indiana War Memorial Plaza, in the heart of Indianapolis, with my parents.
I remember riding in the car, either coming home from Christmas shopping or visiting relatives– trying to look out the window and see all the Christmas lights along the way.
I remember pulling out boxes of old Christmas decorations with my Dad and spending hours— trying to untangle lights and replace burned out bulbs.
As a child, snow and Christmas lights were magic to me.
So there should be little wonder as to why I decorate as much as I do today.
Christmas is magical.
It’s the one time of year that it’s okay for us all to be kids again.
Every Christmas I feel especially close to my Grandmother, who passed away when I was a senior in college. She taught me so many things without really intending to, I imagine. She brought out a lot of my creativity through the many hours we spent baking and crafting together when I was young. My grandparents weren’t rich— but the Christmases we shared with them were always magical.
My parents were always careful to balance all the different aspects of the holidays, careful to keep the emphasis on the real reason for the season. We didn’t have a lot growing up– but we had everything.
To me, more than anything, Christmas is a feeling. Sometimes I feel it in my heart and sometimes in my gut. Sometimes it’s magical and sometimes it’s bittersweet. It’s a time to look ahead– and a time of remembrance.
Christmas is a time of wonder and awe– that the birth of an innocent child so many centuries ago, could ignite generation after generation with promise– and lead the world on a journey towards the eternal search for light and truth. The miracle of birth and rebirth.
Christmas is the time for us all to take a step back and view the world through the eyes and heart of a child. The eyes of innocence. The heart that can still believe. Where a world can still be guided by love and peace. A world where there is still hope. A world full of magic. A world where dreams and miracle can come true.
Christmas really is for children.
May this Christmas reawaken the child in all of us.