Written by contributor NJ Renie.
It’s time to talk Christmas. If you are lucky enough to have grown up (or currently live) in a traditional culture, then you know that the shared rituals surrounding holidays –and the resulting togetherness– is what makes them so special.
Obviously, most of us can’t hope to replicate the sense of community and rhythm enjoyed by traditional cultures, but this Christmas you could take a couple of well-aimed stabs at it. Here’s how…
First off, building a few, good traditions can last us forever. Our consumer conditioning taps us on the shoulder and begs us to overdo it. Don’t listen and keep it simple.
Photo by Martyn E. Jones
We’ve all seen enough overblown Christmas displays to make us cower involuntarily at the thought, but do not put on your Grinch suit just yet. Decorations serve the purpose of announcing to the community that you are “on board” with this particular holiday. The collective participation of your neighborhood will create an atmosphere that everyone will enjoy.
Examples of simple, elegant outdoor decorations could be wreaths, ribbons, candles, even tinted light bulbs in the place of your porch lights.
For a more natural approach outdoor trees could be decorated with strands of sunflower seeds, popcorn, and/or fruit, attracting hungry song birds as well as providing low impact decoration. Even plantings of shrubs with bright winter berries can add a touch of natural beauty to your yard at Christmastime.
Decorative lights are sure to be controversial here and I won’t play the wet blanket; if you must do lighting, select low wattage lights hung in areas where they’ll have the most impact. Run them on timers during the hours between sunset and bedtime to reduce your energy usage.
Photo by Bev Lloyd-Roberts
Once we move inside decoration is more about setting the mood. Things should be warm and comfortable: low lighting, such as candles or oil lamps; rich smells from freshly cut pine boughs or a few oranges studded with cloves; and of course the right tree.
Whether you choose a live tree, freshly cut tree, artificial, or no tree at all, they all have their upsides and downsides. Choose the one that works the best for your family.
Photo by Arianne van Noordt
Food, or more accurately sitting and together enjoying it, is probably the single most cherished Christmas tradition in most families. More than likely you already have something like this. Most holiday meals consist of something expensive or time consuming to prepare –goose, tamales, and fruit cakes come to mind. For a two-fer, eating together and cooking together, consider enlisting family and friends to cook something special together.
If you are looking for a traditional “big event” on a tight budget, then try putting on your best winter clothes and attending a live theatre or a holiday concert. Churches or civic organizations will often present yearly free holiday performances of one kind or another (don’t be afraid to crash a church’s party if you’re not a member.)
Photo by Tom Calendera
Timing is Everything
Try structuring the run-up to your family’s holiday to include activities like decorating, tree trimming, cookie making, preparing holiday cards, a holiday reading etc. By structuring several small events leading up to the big day, the build will also become a cherished part of the tradition
Happy Holidays to you and yours.
What are your favorite holiday traditions? Which ones could you do without?