It’s Not About the Decorating by Sharon O’Donnell

This was a very hectic time this year right before the holidays with some family sicknesses, the death of a family friend, the birth of a great niece, and some traveling. My youngest son was also wrapping up his first semester of high school, a very demanding feat. Before I knew it, it was the week before Christmas, and I still didn’t have any decorations up or candy or cookies made. I’d done a lot of shopping, but none were wrapped — and some I’d have to go into closets and try to find.

My oldest son who has always been sentimental about Christmas has his own apartment now, so he wasn’t around to prompt me to decorate early or to help with the effort. And our two-story house does require some effort. The electric candles in the windows have always been a staple of our decorations, but they are always such a pain to put up; first, you have to move furniture to get to the blinds, and then you have to get the candle behind the blinds and find somewhere within reach of the cord to plug them into. At least, for the past two years, I got timers for the candles so we don’t have to turn the switch on at each of the windows every night: they come on at 5:30 pm and go off at 11:30 pm. As long as the batteries in the timers don’t go bad.

I always put up the greenery on the mantle with the stockings, and then there’s the garland with lights on the side of our stairs and along the banister. I got all that done, and I’d intended to put the garland on the porch railing outside as I’ve done every single year for the past 25 years. I got the box with the garland out on the porch, and it sat there for two days — until finally I decided to give up. By the time I got it up on the porch, it would be time to take it down, and it was a difficult task to weave the garland throughout the railing. I felt a pang of guilt, but I also felt a sense of freedom. My oldest son stopped by one day after work and took the boxes off the porch and put them in the garage, and he or nobody else seemed to mind that I hadn’t put the garlands around the porch.

And I also didn’t get out all the carefully bubble wrapped ceramic members of the manger scene I usually place on  my dining room table.

And Christmas went on just as it always has.

I realized that it really isn’t about the decorating. As beautiful as decorations can be, if getting them all up is stressful, then simply don’t do it.

I made my sons’ favorite candies instead. I rang the Salvation Army bell at a local store instead. I went to a movie with the whole family two nights before Christmas instead. I went stress-free to the Christmas Eve service with our family at our church instead.

Maybe next year I will have more time and be able to put up all the decorations again.  But if I don’t . . . I know it’s okay. Christmas will still come. And go.  So, it’s important to enjoy it while it’s here.

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