Every so often questions and comments come from readers that I think others would like to hear my response to. That’s when I feature them on the blog. This is one of those days…
I recently got a question from Donna. She wrote:
“I have an “Ask Jo” question. Hope I haven’t missed the answer on some past post…but why do you dislike holiday decorating?
Don’t get me wrong…I dislike it too, but if I ever mention that to someone, it’s like they can’t even believe it and like I must be dysfunctional.
I just resent the time it takes to set up and later pack away. I don’t enjoy doing it and as a mother of only sons (now adults) I have found they really don’t notice stuff like that very much.
Now a special meal and a seasonal dessert they do appreciate and I like planning and cooking.
I guess I am feeling g a bit guilty and maladjusted seeing everyone’s Halloween decorations.
How did you phase out seasonal decorating g and does your family mind?
You don’t even do a Christmas tree, right? I might give that up this year.”
Oh my…I’m sure you had no idea when you asked the question, Donna, what my response would be. It will likely be a long one so grab a cup of coffee…here goes.
I’ve told you all that I’m the youngest of five siblings. My sister is 16 years older than me and there are 3 boys in between. When I was little, this was my Christmas….
It says Feb ’68 on the photo so that means this was taken when I was two.
I am dumping out my Christmas stocking. Our family celebrated Christmas at that time.
Second grade was the last year our family celebrated a “regular” Christmas. After that, my sister and her family joined a church group that didn’t acknowledge Christmas. My parents ended “regular” Christmas for us all.
We didn’t have a tree. We didn’t have a huge meal. We didn’t have decorations. We still had Christmas candies and treats and my Dad continued to candlelight church service but that’s about it as far as celebrating Christmas goes.
There never was Santa even when my parents allowed “regular” Christmas. My parents believed Santa was a lie and they didn’t lie to us EVER!
So for me, Christmas became totally non-commercial. On Christmas Eve I went to church with my Dad. My brothers and their families often still came on Christmas day. There weren’t any presents. We ate food. We played games including cards. Christmas for me was the birth of Jesus. It was a candlelight service. It was family. It’s was food and spending time together.
As a teen and early adult, I was resentful to my sister about this. I wanted parts of the commercial Christmas I could see so many enjoying. I blamed it on my sister and her family. I felt like they stole it from me. She got while she was growing up. She ruined it for me.
As a twenty-some-year-old, I had a family and kids. I could do what I wanted in regards to Christmas. I talked to Kramer and he was on board to not do Santa. I tried having a tree. I tried some of the more commercial non-religious things people do for Christmas but it all seemed like a show that involved a lot of work and money. After a few years, I told Kramer if he wanted to do a tree to do it- I wasn’t. He said he didn’t have a tree growing up unless he brought the classroom Christmas tree home from school. He agreed. A tree and lots of decor wasn’t our thing. A Christmas tree wasn’t meaningful to us.
When Kalissa was a teen she was insistent on a tree. We had one a couple of years…but after she had to take all the decorations up and down, she quit too.
Christmas isn’t about decorations for me. Christmas for me is about family. It’s about a candlelight Christmas service. It’s about special foods for the season…a couple of practical presents and that’s it. The other stuff doesn’t bring me joy. After living so many years without it, the other stuff seems frivolous and expensive.
Now that the kids are all adults… we’ve done things that make things easier for them. No presents are exchanged between everyone-no one can afford it. We don’t get together. Two of the girls are nurses. They work overnights and weekends. It is so hard to get together. Buck has done snow removal for many years. If it snows more than 2″, he can’t be here or has to leave early. Besides, all of them have “the other side of the family” and have grandparents that want to see them.
In contrast, we make a big deal of Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving day and the kids all come then…that became my tradition growing up with my family. Being my sister didn’t “do” Christmas, she did do Thanksgiving so Thanksgiving became the big family celebration when I was growing up. The “other side” of the families have been very good to our family and often celebrate Thanksgiving for their families on the weekend before or after letting us have a special Thanksgiving being Christmas isn’t as a big of a deal for us.
It’s unusual but it has become our family thing.
For many years I had some trouble with depression over the Christmas season. How I grew up and not having Christmas weighed heavily on me. I was mad at my sister and her husband. I was mad at my parents. As a child, I wanted “the” Christmas. I felt it was stolen from me. Every time Christmas came around, so did those feelings. Trying to provide “the” Christmas for my kids was taxing. Giving up and not giving my kids “the” Christmas made me feel like I was stealing it away from them. No matter what I did, I didn’t feel good. Christmas was depressing.
It took from 2nd grade until about the time I was 48 for me to finally come to the resolution that I’m actually comfortable with Christmas and how we celebrate. I spent years and years always doubting myself and wondering if what I was doing was “okay”. I finally realized that I didn’t think God was going to think I was terrible for not putting up a tree and in the end, that’s the only one who counts. I’ve always given my kids the freedom to choose for themselves what they wanted to do and I’ve apologized to them if my “trouble” with Christmas was a problem for them. I guess there isn’t a lot more I can do. I’ve forgiven everyone, including myself, and moved on accepting myself for who am flaws and all.
Christmas to me is a candlelight service with the celebration of Jesus, time with family, fun, games, and good food. I’m finally okay with that and have gotten over being resentful. I’m sad it took so many years.
I do a tiny bit of decorating…not much…about a half hours worth and that’s it.
I do want to point out that I am completely accepting of whatever anyone else wants to do. Everyone can do whatever is right for their family. I don’t care if people are Jewish, Jehova Witness, Muslim, Lutheran, Catholic, decorators, not decorating…it makes no difference to me. I’m solid in my beliefs and I’m comfortable-FINALLY. What a good feeling. I wish everyone could be comfortable in their beliefs and traditions regardless of what they are.
Some of our kids have Christmas trees and the whole decoration thing with lights and all. Some don’t. I want them all to make choices as to what is right for their family.
I do want to note that Kalissa and her family typically are always home for Christmas…as is Karl. We typically exchange a present with each other…nothing fancy and gag gifts are even okay. We play games and hang out for the day. It’s very enjoyable…even without a Christmas tree and decorations. We still go to candlelight services and take part in what feel is the true meaning of Christmas.
Sorry, that got long Donna…but that’s the answer…All of that wrote is true but also, I plain out don’t enjoy decorating.
As always, if I missed your “Ask Jo” question, feel free to ask again.