“We should get an advent calendar,” Scott said to me about a week ago.
“I agree, we should,” maybe that organic chocolate one I saw at Trader Joe's. A few days later we were decorating our apartment. Scott had pulled out the two boxes full of ornaments and other Christmas decorations. I opened one and right on top,
“Hey, we have an advent calendar!” I pulled out the quilted one that my sister-in-law had bequeathed to me. Her teenage sons now too old to enjoy pulling out quilted lambs and wise men and arranging them by velcro around an embroidered manger. I hung it. It was November 28th.
Emma almost immediately pulled out the little figures and then began playing imaginary games with them. Internally I sighed, I didn't see any way around that. Would she be able to appreciate in two days when we started pulling them out one at a time?
Two days later I pulled her little body over to the calendar, I explained that we would take one out at a time, she folded up her arms and did her fake screech. She was reluctant to do any of it at all. The magical moment was a wash. The calendar has stayed hanging. She has put the figures we took out back in their little pockets.
Try again next year.
Along the way so many magical moments that I try to create with my family get wrecked in inclement weather, product malfunctions, misunderstanding, or just plain old arguing. Every year I try to create 'our thing.' Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. Every year I decorate. Every year I listen to other women's traditions and feel low. I could be better. I could be more organized. I could be more magical. If only...
Then I remember the moments from my Christmases that were so special to me: playing with the Christmas Carol themed jack in the boxes, drinking sparkling apple cider while decorating the Christmas tree, and that first lighting of the tree. That tree was always the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen. A marvel. How could you take a simple tree and make it that lovely?
And that's all it took. No orchestrated moments. No elaborate plans. No amazing crafts.
The things that my daughters will remember from Christmases are things I don't even know that I do. A book. A certain ornament. A particular song. A flavor. Playing with that advent calendar. Maybe they will remember magical moments of cutting down our own Christmas tree, but I won't know until they tell me as adults. I'm sure it will surprise me.
Hopefully they'll get the point that it is about Jesus and not all this other stuff. That really seems to get lost in all the tinsel and stress.
This year I've been thinking about all the fat of the season. Every year I think about it. What is really needed and what isn't. So much of it is about other people's expectations. If I don't spend this much on Aunt Sue, she'll be mad. I've tried to shuck other people's expectations. Decide what I think is important and stick to it. Trim the fat and keep the meat. Forget Rudolph and focus on Jesus.