Advent week 3: Christmas rituals

Last week, actual tears came to my eyes while I was writing my blog post, and I don’t feel like going through that emotional wringer again (plus I can’t think of anything profound to say this week), so I’m going to write about something more fun.  But first, I have to tell you about a book I checked out of my church library.  It’s called Simply SenseSational Christmas.  The title, interestingly enough, isn’t the cheesiest thing about the book.  Let’s just say that it savors strongly of the 1990s, when it was published.  But although the hip DIY bloggers of 2016 might sneer at much of this book’s aesthetic, its central points are perhaps more relevant than ever: 1. Christmas is about the time when God was born in a stable, so stop stressing yourself out trying to have the perfect showplace home, and 2. Appealing to all five physical senses is possibly the best way to create a memorable, delightful, and even worshipful experience for yourself and your loved ones at Christmas.  The book goes on to offer simple strategies like scattering a handful of cloves around candles so that they give off a spicy, festive scent when they get warm.  This might not be life-changing stuff–then again, it might.

This book has got me thinking about some of the rituals, most if not all of them involving the physical senses, that I enjoy in my own home each Christmas.  This is the second Christmas I’ve spent in my house.  Before that, I was renting an apartment, and while I enjoyed some Christmas rituals there too, there’s something special about celebrating in one’s very own home.  (I also enjoy a number of Christmas rituals in my parents’ house, where I always spend the actual day of Christmas and usually the week or so before and after it, but those aren’t the subject of this post.)  Here are some of them.

  1. I have a number of Christmas albums in my iTunes library, including some that I’ve been listening to with my family since childhood (The New Young Messiah) and some that I’ve acquired in recent years (Christmas at the Renaissance Fair by Moat Jumper–exactly what it sounds like).  I start listening to these while I’m decorating on December 1, and I usually get through the whole collection about three times during the Christmas season.  I also have some individual Christmasy tracks from other albums that I include in the rotation, such as Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on Greensleeves” and John Williams’s “Christmas at Hogwarts” from the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone soundtrack.  I also like to listen to the Nutcracker suite on record #12 of the Festival of Light Classical Music record collection I bought at Goodwill last year for $2.50.
  2. I light candles like a pyromaniac all year, but at Christmas, it really gets out of hand.  I go through tealights like my family goes through toilet paper at a large gathering.  The last year I lived in the apartment, my neighbor made me a lovely set of candleholders created from upside-down stemware decorated to look like Santa Claus, a snowman, and other festive characters.  I also have a balsam-and-cedar scented large Yankee jar candle that almost compensates for the fact that my 1.5 trees (I have a big one in the living room and a little one in my home office) are artificial.  My Pier One Holiday Forest room spray, a gift from a friend last year, also helps.
  3. I love mail.  I check my mailbox obsessively on Saturdays when I’m home to check it, and I actually have a real honest-to-goodness pen pal.  So it’s no surprise that I enjoy sending Christmas cards.  I love writing in them (even if it’s just a simple “Love, Tess”), sticking Christmas seals on the envelopes, and putting a big fat stack of them out in the mailbox.  In turn, when I receive Christmas cards, I hang them with tiny clothespins on twine in the corner of my entryway.  It’s an easy and beautiful decoration, especially when I get cards with gold on the front, which catch the light from my many candles and my tree lights.

I could go on–I haven’t said a word about food–but I think you get the idea.  These rituals are so common as to sound almost banal, but they’re meaningful to me.  I’m sure you have some that are meaningful to you.  Feel free to share in the comments!

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4 thoughts on “Advent week 3: Christmas rituals

  1. Carol Saylor says:

    Loved reading about your rituals, Tess! Makes me want to come and stay at your home; and, to also savor some of your cooking which your mom says you enjoy doing!
    Some of my rituals include putting up the same decorations year after year because I love them so much and don’t want to change them! I love lights during the dark days of winter, however, my candles are the battery-kind with timers! Also, it’s great turning on the Christmas tree lights in the early morning when it’s still dark outside!

  2. Hi Carol, those are good rituals! I have some of the battery-powered candles in my windows too. I love your idea of turning on the tree lights in the morning! I’m going to have to try that while I get ready for work.

  3. Vickie Stockslager says:

    I learned a lot of wonderful things about you in this blog, Tess! Happy Christmas! Can’t wait for you to come home!

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