One of the things I love best about Christmas is that so many of its joys are simple ones. I love the music and lights. I love the rituals, which for me include decorating, baking and watching old Christmas movies and A Charlie Brown Christmas.
The childhood anticipation and sense of wonder remain; only now they’re less about gifts and more about time with family and friends. Time with the ones we love is the biggest blessing of Christmas.
When we can no longer have them with us, we’re blessed with memories of them. As you get older, you’ll start counting on more such memories to sustain you during the holidays. My mom and dad are both gone, as are my husband Bruce’s dad, Duane, and his older brother, Brad. Brad gave the best Christmas gifts of anyone I’ve ever known before or since. Duane made divinity every year. Like everyone, a lot of our holiday rituals and memories are tied up with food.
Every year when I bake my spritz Christmas trees I think of my mom. She baked 20 different types of cookies every year and gave them as Christmas gifts. She had a separate freezer just for them, and it was strictly off-limits to my brother and me. It was a proud day when she put me in charge of the chocolate chip cookies. I still have a copy of her cookie list, in her handwriting. It’s one of my most treasured possessions, along with the Christmas stockings she knitted for Bruce and me shortly after we were married.
Memories also live in the ornaments we haul out every year. My mom’s crocheted snowflakes, candy canes, angels and trees have places of honor on the tree. The goofy-looking clothespin reindeer won’t win any decor awards, but the memory of purchasing it for 50 cents at a Pensacola craft fair when we were young and lived paycheck to paycheck is as warming as a cup of cocoa. So is the lantern stuffed with angel hair from Bruce’s childhood. It’s an accidental collectible, now that angel hair (spun glass) is extinct in the U.S. It used to be part of every grade-school Christmas display.
The ability to find joy in the small things is an underrated blessing at Christmas or any other time. Roy L. Smith said, “He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” I think happiness is much the same. If you chase it, it will outrun you every time. If you don’t obsess over how much you have or how to get it, it will find you.
Here’s wishing you all the blessings of the season.