In the past, I’ve always enjoyed filling my December days with cookies and concerts and decorations, and Advent calendars filled with chocolates and treats for the boys. But this year, Christmas is a bit different at my house. As I’m writing this a few days before the holiday, there are still no presents under the tree—mainly because there is no tree (yet!)—the Advent wreath never made it out of the box, and the only cookies in the house are Oreos (not even the festive holiday Oreos!).
I could be very twitchy about this situation—after all, I’m not “ready” for the season. What will people think? Who have I let down?
I have noticed, however, that when I start to get anxious about the lack of holiday preparation, or when I begin to wonder if I’ve ever been this unprepared before, I don’t ever recall things being left undone, or a Christmas that was deemed “bad.”
Instead, I think about all the crazy and wonderful ways we’ve spent Christmas in the past. For example, there was the Christmas Eve we spent navigating a blizzard, with a delicious dinner at Hardee’s on the Kansas turnpike, followed by a totally unplanned night in a hotel (where, to the amazement of my younger son, Santa found us!). I also remember the Christmas we spent in the Residence Inn in Bloomington, Minnesota, because our older son was working his first job out of college and had no time off. I look fondly upon the Christmas we spent in Rome, with the dinner we still talk about to this day (in a good way!), and our hygge-filled holidays in Denmark. And I’ll never forget last Christmas, when it was so warm in Kansas, the cousins didn’t need to wear coats while they played Frisbee on Christmas Day.
Most importantly, I remember the first Christmas we spent as a married couple in Florida when we fired up the barbeque, the last Christmas we spent with my father, and the first Christmases with our children.
I’m hard pressed to remember many of the physical gifts I’ve ever received or given, or whether there were cookies or enough lights on the tree. Those seemingly important details lose their power over time. But memories of the time spent with people I love gain power every single year. These memories are the best gifts—they never get old or worn out. There are none I would ever return, because each one—even the ones that make me a bit sad—holds so much love.
So, whether you’re dining at Hardee’s, vacationing in Rome, celebrating in a hotel room or at home alone—maybe you’re surrounded by family and friends, or alone in a crowd, dancing around a Christmas tree, lighting the Menorah or lighting the Kwanzaa candles, or simply relishing the decorations and a day off—I wish for you the very warmest of holiday seasons. May your holidays be full of wonder, of memories made and treasured, and an overwhelming amount of love.