We don’t have a “perfect” Christmas.
We’re the last family on our street with old-fashioned coloured Christmas lights. I can’t seem to embrace the ubiquitous white lights: I know they look more clean and professional and designer-ish, but I grew up with coloured lights, and so I string coloured lights every year. Besides, they match our decorations, there isn’t anything elegant about this crew.
Not a single one of our ornaments matches another ornament. When Brian and I were a young married couple, no kids, we used to buy them when we travelled (that feels like another life…). So we hang a glass angel from Poland, a kitschy mariachi couple from San Antonio, Santa in swim trunks from Florida, delicate balls from Beijing. And, because that was such a short season of our life, we have covered the rest of our tree with salt-dough homemade ornaments, dripping with glue and glitter, plus a clearance box from Walmart in candy stripe primary colours. They’re the same ornaments we have every year, and already the tinies unwrap them with squeals of recognition.
We have a cheap angel at the top: her face broke in half the year we moved home to Canada, and we mended her with super glue. Joseph stuck her on the top of the tree crooked this year. In between the mismatched and homemade ornaments, we swing gaudy plastic garland, I picked the pearly sheen-y one because it reflects the coloured lights bee-yew-ti-fully.
We set the tree up today, and we hollered at the kids, and we laughed, and we danced, and we swatted the baby away from the branches, I’m still sweeping needles.
We listened to O Holy Night and I told every one it was my favourite Christmas song, but I danced the craziest at All I Want For Christmas Is You, because, honestly, that is kind of also my favourite. I dug out the Advent devotionals and placed them right beside How the Grinch Stole Christmas in the Christmas book basket because that’s how it is around here.
I’m not retro in a cool hipster kind of way, I’m more retro in the dorky-family-Christmas wanna-be-Griswold eye-roll sort of way. Today, I went to Home Depot to scope out a sale on lighted reindeer for the front yard, and very nearly bought the hockey-playing polar bear instead (Brian talked me out of both, the old Grinch).
All of my Christmas recipes are the same ones that my mother makes, and those the same ones that both of my own Grannies made before us. I stick fake maraschino cherries onto the tops of my whipped shortbread, and my Anne swears they’re her favourite cookie, she waits all year-long for them.
Sometimes it’s easy to be lured into the Pinterest Christmas, the myth of the perfect, designer, foodie, cool Christmas. The idea behind it seems to be that, if we decorate it beautifully, it will be beautiful, and somehow our surroundings are the best indicator for our inner peace and joy, our best defense against the reality of our own imperfections at Christmas.
So I feel strangely, unreasonably obstinate about white lights and matchy-glass ornaments. I make homemade pies and boy, do they look homemade, and sometimes I make homemade gifts (boy, do they look homemade), and sometimes I yell at my tinies when they aren’t being merry and bright enough.
This year, instead of kicking rocks, paging through magazines, I’m embracing it, loving it, poking my candy cane stick in the ground like a flag-planting, a declaration: I will have an imperfect Christmas, and I’ll embrace all of it from the Rankin Bass Christmas specials to the way that I cry through the entire Christmas Eve candlelight service.
I’m celebrating my imperfect Christmas. Maybe no one wants to Pin it or sponsor it, maybe Martha would weep in her Cape Cod cottage over it, but I’ll be one of the few and the proud.
I’ll be the last one stringing coloured lights and crappy garland, I’ll be the last one making family recipes instead of Food network approved fare, I’ll be the last one hanging kindergarten ornaments, and I’ll save my homemade presents from the tinies in the little box I call My Glory Box because this is my crown.
Tonight, we watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and I worked on my Christmas letter. I’m sitting here now, in the glow of a thousand coloured mini-lights, and I love my imperfect Christmas and my imperfect family so much.
All is, somehow, mysteriously, calm and bright.