Hang onto those traditions you love, even if they are a wee bit inconvenient.
After we put up the tree, we string the lights. “We” being me and me alone. Not because the others aren’t willing to help, but rather because I won’t let them. I know that sounds terrible, but the lights make the tree and I want my tree to sparkle. And sparkle it does! I’ve heard that pilots flying over our neighborhood on the way to Bradley Field can detect a faint glow coming from our home. (Maybe don’t tell the FAA about this.)
How long does it take to wrap every branch from tip to trunk, covering the tree in 2,000 lights? Long enough for my husband and kids to go out and get most of their Christmas shopping done. Which they’ve been known to do.
Not only does tree lighting take me three or four hours, but when I’m done my hands are covered in cuts and scratches and my feet and back hurt like I’ve been touring Disney for a day. (I know, I know, first world problems.)
Crazy, I know. And every year, a small part of me dreads the tree-lighting process, but I wouldn’t want it any other way because those few hours proffer me an entire month of tree viewing pleasure.
So if you love your traditions…even the inconvenient ones…then hang on to them! Life is hard and the holidays are challenging and if frosting a gingerbread house or creating handmade cards or knitting everyone you know a scarf or in my case, looking at bright, sparkly objects, brings you joy, then do it!
For the first 12 years or so of our marriage we had a real tree. I wanted our family to have that quintessential New England experience of singing carols while riding a horse-drawn carriage into the tree fields, cutting down the perfect tree and bringing it home to decorate before a cozy fire. I so firmly believed in my Hallmark Christmas Special fantasy that it took me 12 years to finally wake up and admit what tree shopping was truly like for this cold-weather-loathing family of perfectionist chiefs.
Let me paint you a little picture:
First we bundle everyone up in coats, snow pants, hats, gloves, scarves & boots. Then we squeeze into car seats and seatbelts even though it’s now hard to breathe properly. After arriving at the farm, we ride in a noisy, exhaust-emitting, tractor-drawn wagon that drops us off in a seemingly endless field of trees. Two hours later, after trudging through the snow from one tree to another to another to another, someone asks, through chattering teeth, to look at the first tree again.(That person is probably me.) Of course, we can’t actually find the first tree but we try anyway.
Once we finally do choose a tree, we strap it on the car, drive home and cut the trunk so that the 10 foot tall tree we bought will actually fit beneath our seven-foot high ceilings. We then wrestle the tree into the house, struggle to make it stand up straight, fill the stand with sugar-water while trying to convince the cat not to drink said water and vacuum up all the pine-needles. After all that, we explain to the children that, no, we can’t decorate the tree yet because we must wait 24 hours for the branches to “settle,” whatever that means. (Come to think of it, that sounds a little like the kind of excuse exhausted parents might make up in order to give themselves a break before hanging ornaments. Mom? Jeb?)
Not quite the Hallmark Special I had in mind. Though, when considering the quality of Hallmark Specials, maybe we weren’t that far off.
Well, a few years ago my mother offered me her beautiful artificial tree. (She has vacillated between artificial and fake trees over the years.) I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this tree is the most realistic looking artificial tree I have ever laid eyes on. Seriously, ask my friends. The tree is so realistic it’s like its own little Christmas miracle. And she bought this woodless wonder at…wait for it…K-Mart!
So while the naturalist snob in me balked at having a tree that needed to be put together, the thought of spending another year in tree farm perdition propelled me to say “YES!”
And you know what? My kids get can’t wait to put the silly, plastic thing together!
It takes all of about 30 minutes and then we’re ready to decorate. (After I string the lights, that is.) And I love this tree. I absolutely love our K-mart, snap-together tree. And you know what? Having an artificial tree is a lot less stressful than trying to reach some artificial, unattainable Christmas ideal. That goes for horse-drawn carriage rides or Who-roast-beast or finding mom the perfect gift.
So if you have some traditions you’re hanging onto because that’s just the way it’s always been or because, like me, you have some artificial idea about what Christmas should look like, don’t be afraid to let go.
Set yourself free! Try something new you’ve always wanted to do or wait before God with an open hand and see what He has in store for you.