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Perhaps it’s an oversimplification, but does it seem to you that through these past 9 months everything in our lives has been pared down to the very basics of our existence? With less social gathering, physical church attendance, shopping and dining in person, communication and physical touch, our current way of life has brought many of us to a closer relationship with God. Many times I’ve felt like God is the only one who can hear and understand my deepest thoughts and concerns. Interactions within our immediate family have been altered and hopefully improved by spending a lot more time together, sharing new experiences and actually communicating our feelings, hopes and dreams with each other. We are about to enter a very different season of Christmas during a pandemic and I can’t really anticipate how that will affect all of us, and I’m not sure I want to. Many of us will be unable to gather with family members or attend our beloved and familiar Christmas Eve services at church. If there has ever been a time to take a breath and absorb the real reason we celebrate this season, it is Christmas in 2020.

As a child, one of my family’s favorite Christmas traditions was to drive around looking at all of the Christmas lights and decorations in the surrounding neighborhoods. At that time, most everyone had an appropriate display of blinking, shiny lights of all colors, and the well-placed plastic representations of Santa and the reindeer or the nativity. Some houses had a plastic Santa praying beside the nativity scene. Being the younger child, after an hour or two of oohs and aahs, I was usually more than ready to return to our home and share appreciation for our simpler display of candles with pale orange bulbs in the windows - they had to be this color because Mama always said the darker or red ones looked like the house was on fire. I remember one year our tree was brightly lit with multi-colored bulbs the size of your palm and tinsel that, much to our mom’s dismay, was thrown onto the tree from a distance because Daddy said that would work just as well and look more “natural.” That was the most fun I ever had decorating a tree. In future years, the tinsel was draped individually over each tiny branch, and the “tinsel toss” became a distant memory. I remember being wide-eyed and amazed when I first saw the neighbors’ shiny metal tree with a color wheel placed so discreetly we thought the branches were magically changing colors on their own.

During several Christmas seasons when our own children were young, we continued the tradition of driving them around the neighborhoods. But, fewer and fewer people decorated as they had in the past; we had to drive longer distances to find anything worth a strong ooh or aah. So, we eventually stopped and just enjoyed the decorations we chose to display each year. Our new traditions included candles with clear bulbs in each window and “real” trees decorated with tiny multi-colored, blinking lights.

The yearly adventure of driving to the Christmas tree farm to choose and chop down the perfect tree could be a story all its own. But for the purpose of this post, the shorter version is that we would all climb in the car, along with the dog, and play and sing along with Christmas music as we drove a little further north to find our special tree. The tree farm had acres of trees, but we usually convinced the kids that the ones closest to the parked car and saws were the best. We smelled them and touched them, and the kids hid behind and under them, and we would eventually pick our favorite - usually one that was too tall for the space available in our home. Then, after my husband did the cutting, the friendly folks who owned the farm would take the tree to be bound in netting and placed it in a pile for pickup. While this was taking place, we would gather around the fire pit and drink free, hot cocoa and eat animal crackers from huge jars on the tables. The cocoa was so hot it would remove the top layer and taste buds from your tongue; but it was the best cocoa and animal crackers we had ever tasted and probably ever will.

Not feeling particularly festive this Christmas season, we decided it would be nice to at least put up the tree. As retired empty nesters, we have graduated to a beautiful, Home Depot special covered in lights that you can put together in 10 minutes! Well, my husband does his part in 10 minutes, but then I spread and fluff all of the branches to create a look that is even more genuine. No color wheel, but it has a remote control that allows you to choose between multi-colored or clear lights; blinking or changing rapidly or slowly - what a world! So far, our special tree and the candles that refuse to stay put on the windowsills are our only contributions to decorating this year. When I walked out in the driveway last night to admire our simple but beloved decorations, I was surprised to see how many houses just on our short street were fully decorated and glowing so brightly you had to squint your eyes. It seems that during this pandemic, folks are anxious once again to share a glimmer or even a Clark Griswold-type of Christmas joy and hope for all to enjoy.

Merry Christmas to all, and prayers for a healthy, hug-filled 2021.

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Love this posts. Reminds me of my Christmases past.

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