I love Christmas. For me it is a month long celebration, and I love to wallow in it for as long as I can. For every shopper saying dismally- “They start earlier and earlier each year….” there is a ‘me’ running around, saying excitedly “Ooohhh, they have pink decorations this year!”
I come from a family that plans out Christmas six months ahead, so you can guess that it is something we enjoy. In our family mine is the generation that does the shopping, the cooking and decorating, and we love it. We have Skype meetings, coffee afternoons, practically any excuse to sit down and talk about December. We have eleven children between us, so it gets pretty crazy- hence the planning.
Now before we start to sound Santa-crazy party planners, I need to say that it hasn’t always been like this. We grew up in a family that didn’t have much money, but with a mother who loved celebrations, and loved Jesus. My mother made stockings for us, decorated the tree and prepared fruit cake for several months- of course, it was eaten in an afternoon. Mum took us to church in the morning, and the rest of the day was spent with our nearby family.
As an adult, Christmas becomes the thing that you make for someone else, rather than it being made for you. However, I am always troubled by people who insist that Christmas is only for children. It is true that a child’s wonder is a special thing, and that great joy comes out of making their fun. Many years ago I realised that as adults we lose that wonder, and that many families get overwhelmed by the demands of the season. Christmas becomes a chore- we do it because it is expected, and because the children will enjoy it. People end up tired and jaded, and praying desperately for the season to be over. I can understand that feeling, having sometimes felt that myself.
That changed for me many years ago. Within five years of each other, my siblings and I lost our parents. In the aftermath of that horrendous time I realised how much our family needed celebration. We needed laughter to return to our household, and our children needed to see us enjoying life again. As a family we decided to honour our parents by celebrating, and by putting the fun back into our Christmas. We play games, those inclined play cricket out the back. We go to the beach when it is a coastal Christmas, and enjoy the air conditioning vents when we are in the Central West. We make goody bags for the children, and there are always the makings of a trifle on hand. We share memories, and we tell the children about the things we used to do when we were children.
I think we are deliberate about Christmas, because we know well that life can change so quickly. I want my family to embrace life- I want a life that isn’t jaded by commercialisation or cynicism. Those things exist, but they don’t define us. We choose to embrace the whole thing. We have our traditions, and our own way of doing things- we look at Christmas lights, we share in decorating- well, I am working hard to share that bit. (I am a little pedantic about my Christmas tree: in fact many years we often decorate two….) I decorate cookies, and we make fruitcake. We have fairy lights in the house all year around, to remind me that Christmas is always less than twelve months away.
I believe that we are hard-wired for celebration- God gave his people seasons and celebrations, these help us to remember Him. While advent calendars record the countdown, and my husband risks his neck every year to put lights on our balcony, all these frivolous trappings remind us that we are in the Christmas season- and the world for a little time falls under the spell of the baby in the manger again.
For me, Christmas is made- and it can be what we choose to make it, rather than what the world tells us it is. I want it all- I want to lift up the name of Jesus and tell his story, and I want to make it a wonderful celebration for family and friends.
In that spirit, it is now the 30th of November- so I am about to dive into the tinsel yet again, and I am going to decorate the house until we are covered in glitter. After all, why do things by halves?
Merry Christmas to all.