Martha Stewart and The Ghost of Christmas

 

Martha Stewart & The Ghost of Christmas Present

Confession: I am not one of those people who LOVES Christmas. I like Christmas, and I have good memories of family holidays and piles of gifts and too much food… but I was not one of those girls who just-couldn’t-wait to have a home of my own to turn into our personal winter wonderland each year. Much of this may have to do with the fact that I grew up in the Southern Hemisphere and our most popular Christmas Day activity was to go swimming at the beach, but I digress…

Our first Christmas as a married couple was spent in the USA, and it was the first year I felt the pressure to wave my Christmas wand and magically produce sparkle and memories and happiness in the living room. As it turned out, my Christmas wand had been snapped in two by the purse-string Grinch: we were broke. And Christmas sparkle costs. And even if we hadn’t been broke, I still don’t think I could have made it happen. Pinterest had not yet been invented, but I was already intimidated by it.

My knee-jerk reaction to the pressure was to boycott the whole thing. We don’t celebrate Valentines Day, we don’t decorate for the seasons – we could just add “not decorating for Christmas” to the list of ways in which I am Not Like Martha Stewart. (Also, I don’t bake brownies from scratch. And I can’t fold a fitted sheet, even though I watched the video a dozen times. And I don’t iron. Ever. That handsome genius going to a meeting in a crumpled shirt would be my husband. Sorry.)

But back to Christmas: in my heart of hearts I didn’t want to boycott it. I wanted a Christmas tree. No, I wanted a FABULOUS Christmas tree. I wanted something in my living room that would bring warmth to my hearth and literally put a twinkle in my eye. I wanted people who visited our little house to take a deep breath when they walked in and to say: “Wow! It’s Christmas in here! Your tree is gorgeous – I LOVE it!”

And that was when I realized what the problem was: I had been thinking about Christmas decorating as if it were for the guests who walked into our house. I was decorating so that OTHERS would love and admire it. I was looking for arts-and-crafty affirmation from friends, and feeling all tied up in knots because I KNOW I’m not arts-and-crafty enough to outbow outdecorate and outglitz anyone on Survivor Christmas Island.

It was at about 2am one December morning, as I sat nursing my firstborn child in a sleep-deprived haze, that the Ghost of Christmas Present gently pointed me in a better direction. I had been decorating with the hope that OTHERS would love it, and feeling frustrated that it wasn’t gorgeous enough and simultaneously snarky that I didn’t want to decorate anyway.

20131201-214304.jpgBut as I looked at our rustic (read: cheap) Christmas tree with its dim and gentle lights that morning – I LOVED it in all its quirky and quaint oddity, and the Ghost spoke to me: This is how you decorate. You decorate because YOU love it, and because those you love will love it. Decorate for your joy, for your family’s joy, and screw the rest.

Sometimes, the Ghosts of my imagination are quite rude. Occasionally, they are quite wise too.

The grinch has been fired, and Christmas decorating is no longer the emotional burden it was. Just as I can embrace that my house is not messy (I prefer to think of it as “well loved”), so too my house is not particularly Christmas-pretty. However, it IS decorated, and since I’ve set the bar really low, I always clear it.

Yesterday we dragged the Christmas tree down from the attic with our box of decorations. The kids put their less breakable art-project ones at the bottom, and we hung the glassy baubles at the top. Drape lights, affix star, and VOILA! Christmas in my house. We had a blast. The lights make me happy. We hung stockings on the banister. There is a wreath on the door. And we are DONE. Regardless of what anyone else thinks when they walk through the door, the important thing is that when WE come into our house we say “Wow! It’s Christmas in here! It’s home and we LOVE it!”

And you know what, friends? It is. And we do. Ghosts: be gone.

23 thoughts on “Martha Stewart and The Ghost of Christmas

  1. This year I’m excited to decorate with my daughter because last year she was just a couple of months old and clueless. This year she’s a year older, but still clueless. At least she can help me place pine cones around the house though, right?

    One of the fun things about decorating is walking down memory lane. Almost all of our decorations have family significance – either my mom made them or they were passed down from my childhood or they were an ornament bought on a fun trip. So that certainly helps make decorating more fun.

    But those lights on my house? Those are not fun. Not at all. : ( And those are definitely for other people because I’m INSIDE staying warm and drinking cocoa and listening to carols and being Christmas-y πŸ™‚

  2. Hey Bron, I think your bar is about the same as mine! We have a memory-lane Christmas tree, where we chat about who/where the decorations came from (like the mini pine cones from Alan and Gaby’s garden that were our sole decorations that impoverished first year of marriage, a bauble brought back from family who visited Canada) and then we have our Jesse tree. I never have a well-put together sparkly house (hey the sun is sparkling outside LOL) but we make sure the decorations are filled with love and, most importantly, point to Jesus. All of them. So, no reindeer and snowmen, but lots of stars and angels πŸ™‚ And now that my kids are getting older, I cherish the joy I see in their faces as they enact the traditions and the conversations we have about the decorations, and the happy memories I know they will have. Priceless, and better than anything in a magazine πŸ™‚ Enjoy your decor – its what memories and precious family traditions are made of πŸ™‚ xx

  3. The joys of Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere is there is no need to be inside and look at a tree, we’re too busy outside enjoying the sunshine!! We bought our first Christmas tree this year, a wire baobab and it sits very proudly on our dining room table. I think next year we might add a few more things, but let’s not put the bar too high, hey?
    I also wonder if those of us who have birthdays in december don’t also secretly revolt against the overdone Christmas, because we want a birthday like it’s any other day of the year… πŸ™‚ But we never get one!
    So, Happy Christmas in our quite and understated way!

  4. I see it’s mostly the South Africans commenting so far πŸ™‚ I found my issue hasn’t been the decorations but trying to do the perfect advent programme with my girls – as if I’m failing as a mother if I don’t have 24 perfectly crafted and crafty advent lessons. This year I have let go of any visions of perfection, shoved two (rather enormous!) branches in a bucket, printed out a reading plan and set off on our advent journey. We’re making daily decorations for our Jesse tree (deciding what to draw on the cardboard discs once we have read the Bible, so no major prep – yay!), and the beauty of it is we can still make decorations while we are away for 10 days before Christmas and hang them on the branches when we get back (and if we don’t get to make them every day, oh well). A much more relaxed mama = a more peaceful house pre-Christmas πŸ™‚

      • So not Pinterest! I got the idea from the book Disciplines of a Godly Family (by Kent and Barbara Hughes, I think) but I’m not following their reading plan this year. We’re using the Jesus Storybook Bible instead. Great fun and ours looks really cool looming over our dining room table πŸ™‚

  5. Christmas when the kids were young always seemed richer no matter how meager the decorations might seem by society’s standards, Bronwyn.

    And I am right there with you about not loving Christmas all that much. Yet while I don’t necessarily like the Christmas season, I do like focusing on Jesus and the incarnation. That part’s awesome, and the anticipation of the Advent season is a great way to focus on it all. (I have an advent post coming up this Friday, btw.)

  6. I must confess …I love Christmas decoration sessions and I have a few in the build up to Christmas… First we have an advent wreath/ display on 1st sunday in advent, then we wait for my mother in law to arrive from SA ( 7-9th Dec) to decorate the tree, put up the nativity scene, hang a few lights outside etc and then I create a feature with our symbolic baubles ( one for each year of our marraige- each has the year on it somewhere and is individual)

    We will have 9 this year and when we hang each one Or walk past them we remember the year, thank God for so many blessings. I am inspired to love my husband and family more and more in the coming year… It’s a special thing to see it grow and one day I hope and pray to decorate a big tree in marriage baubles !!

    Although I am not very good at making things arts and crafty or have loads of cash to splash I like to be creative and put things together…. This is one of my talents and what I enjoy. Generally I pinch ideas from shop windows or magazines and look for bargains, buy additions in charity shops or after xmas sales and recycle ( fallen branches & pine cones are free under God’s trees ). This way I have slowly built the collection that is used year on year. Our first tree was two branches of a tree that were disguarded on the pavement, propped together in a tin can with ribbon tied around it !! πŸ˜‰ And for the last 3 years our tree has been a potted one – it grows outside for the year and comes in for Christmas !

    I think it is most important to use your gifts at Christmas to bless others and show the true meaning behind Christmas the whether that is decorating, baking, cooking, writing, playing board games, carol singing or visiting people who need company, To name a few… This way you do what you enjoy and reach out to others, bless them and share with them the true meaning of Christmas… even my generally bah humbug husband gets the hint that it’s time to be thankful and celebrate.

  7. OK, I know it’s only Monday, but this is by far the best line of the week:

    “Pinterest had not yet been invented, but I was already intimidated by it.”

    Love it. And the tree is stunning.

  8. “It’s home and we LOVE it!” – Okay, it cannot get much better than that! What a blessing to be able to just enjoy this season! Thanks for the reminder of focusing on what really matters! I still have yet to get the Christmas bins down from the attic… πŸ™‚
    XO,
    Angie

  9. Very freeing, Bronwyn! I am not a crafty person, not even a love-to-cook-and-bake person…and sometimes I’m tempted, despite my husband’s words to the contrary, to think I’m a failure of a female. It is so RELIEVING to hear that other women set the bar low for themselves too. I can have a house devoid of glitter and still call myself a woman! Hooray!

  10. I must say, I also relate to this. I easily fall into the comparison trap, and sometimes avoid having people over to our place because it is so small, and looks like a 70’s explosion. Today, however, I came home from work, to an apart full of Christmas decorations. I mentioned to Brandt earlier in the week that I wanted our apartment to feel like Christmas, so he went to the dollar store and purchased a plethora of different little Christmasy knick knacks to surprise me. The decorations aren’t fancy, but they definitely fill my heart with joy. πŸ™‚ Yay for family and loving husbands.

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