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Spirit of the Season

Like Kimberly, I’m looking at Christmas in a new light this year. My kids are teenagers now, and while they haven’t lost all of their magical appreciation for the season, they do have a very frank understanding of Santa which significantly alters the gift-giving angle. After all, the reason for the season isn’t gifts, its God. Jesus.

Kids are great

Makes a gal feel kind of superficial and materialistic focusing on the shopping business. So I won’t. This year isn’t going to be about finding the perfect gift, the one that lights up their faces on Christmas morning. Nope. There will be gifts Christmas morning, but greatly reduced. I’ll carry the sentiment through Christmas dinner. As hostess for the family gathering, I’ve asked the relatives to dispense with our customary gift exchange. It only adds chaos to the evening, anyway. I mean, we’re talking 25 people for dinner and my house is far from a mansion. Trust me when I tell you it gets a little crazy. And to exchange gifts right before we’re serving a home-cooked meal? Double the chaos. We need all hands on deck to carve the turkey, make the gravy, toast the marshmallows atop the sweet potatoes, warm the veggies… The list goes on.

gingerbread house

Recently, I discovered that one family in our community celebrates the season without gifts. For themselves, that is, including their kids. Instead, they wrap a gift box, cut a slit in the top, then deposit money into it throughout the month. A week before Christmas, they take the money and buy food for the hungry, clothes for the homeless; wherever they see a need, they fill it.

I like it. It embraces the charitable spirit of the season and reminds me it’s time to focus on the basics. Family, friends, charity, hospitality, song and prayer. How about you? Any changes this season to your celebration?

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Finding That Christmas Spirit

Christmas seems to be coming in a rush.  It doesn’t help that Mother Nature is acting like a menopausal wreck with thunderstorms and 70 degree weather making it feel like April in Atlanta instead of December.  Not to mention that I had a book releasing this week and cover copy and edits due on two other books, pushing the whole Christmas shopping, holiday decorating, cookie baking scenario right out the window.

I finally grabbed a couple of hours this morning to decorate the tree—because, really, no one else in the house was going to do it.  Normally, it’s one of my favorite holiday jobs, but this year I wasn’t into it.  It’s that whole artificial tree thing again.  Last year at this time, I blogged about our family’s transition from a real live, sweet smelling tree to a plastic, unscented model.  (You can check out that blog here.)  For the sake of my men folk, we’ve decided to keep the allergy aggravating stuff outside the house from now on—including during the holiday season.  As much as I hate an artificial tree, I hate the nebulizer and coughing and wheezing more.

All it took was a look inside the ornament boxes to change my negative mindset, though.  As I unwrapped and hung the ornaments on the branches—branches that didn’t prick me or bend under the weight of my precious ornaments—I realized that it doesn’t matter whether my tree is real or not.  It’s the actual the ornaments that tell the story of my family’s journey through Christmas’ these past twenty-two years.  Like my family, our tree decorations aren’t fussy or pretentious; they aren’t fashionable or organized.  They’re just pieces of the story of who we are and where we’ve been.

Take, for example, the porcelain ornament depicting the North Gate in Seoul Korea. northgate I picked it up when I worked for NBC sports during the 1988 Summer Olympics.  My husband has had to glue it together at least twice when it tumbled off a tree branch onto the hardwood floor.  (Score one for the artificial tree.)  It looks a little gnarly after all these years, but I couldn’t imagine it not being a part of my Christmas tree.

The handmade ornaments that have survived since my kids were in preschool get hung first, up near the top.  reindeer ornamentSome are made out of actual gingerbread and others out of Popsicle sticks and googly eyes.  Still others are Sunday school creations made of origami.  One was made by my niece out of a piece of ribbon and some beads.

We have several lighthouse ornaments.  One from each lighthouse we've visited.

We have several lighthouse ornaments. One from each lighthouse we’ve visited.

Interspersed among the Solheim originals are the fancy Lennox and Wallace ornaments.  Ornaments from the White House are mixed in with balls filled with sand from beaches we’ve visited.  There are horses and dogs, marionette Santas all the way from Germany, gingerbread men and reindeer.  There’s even a set depicting historic Glyndon, Maryland where my husband grew up.  The candy canes are wooden ones that my Grandmother used to hang on her tree.

We love our sea turtle!

We love our sea turtle!

After nearly three hours of hanging ornaments, I wasn’t so glum about our regal artificial tree.  Every year from here on out, it will be the vessel for displaying all the memories that our family has stored up through the years.  And just like a corny TV holiday show, I’d found my Christmas spirit exactly where I’d left it—in the boxes filled with ornaments.

Happy holidays to all of you!

Do you have a favorite holiday decoration?  Tradition?  Care to share?

Fun With Santa

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A few years ago, my husband decided it was time to decorate the house, you know, like regular folks do at Christmas, with more than just a Christmas tree. Since I’m not much of a decorator, he went out himself and bought a whole whack of Santa ornaments. When our youngest son came home from work that night and saw the house littered with Santa figures, he said, “Our house puked Santa.”

Since then, it’s been a running household joke. This year, when the boy removed Santa from his bathroom counter and stuck the figure on a shelf where we would be sure to find it, we decided to have a little fun. Every day, the boy would come home and find Santa in a different location.

The first day we tucked Santa into the boy’s bed. When the boy arrived home and found him, not a word was said.

The next day, we went looking for Santa. The boy had hidden him so well, we had to search the whole house. Finally, we found him on the top shelf of a book cabinet. This time, Santa got a note hung from his beard and we put him on the counter next to the fridge, where the boy usually leaves his lunch kit. The note said, “My darling boy, I missed you so much today, I cried while you were away. Your parents won’t play with me. Please take me to work with you tomorrow.”

Again, Santa was not mentioned but it was obvious the boy’s after-work mood was getting a much needed lift.

The next morning, we located Santa in our bathtub. Because this Santa was of Scottish heritage, we left the boy a note that said, “I’m Scottish and I like to go commando. I dare you to look under my skirt.”

And so the countdown to Christmas continued, with the boy hiding Santa every night and us finding fun ways to entertain him… or perhaps we were simply entertaining ourselves. 🙂

Do you have a holiday Grinch in your family and if so, what kind of tricks do you use to beat humor the grinchiness out of him/her?

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