I think of Christmas at home with ungodly amounts of cookies, decorations strewn throughout the house, and a Douglas fir filling the living room with needles, its sheer size, and best of all - its smell. All of our hodge podge ornaments are placed conscientiously on the tree to fill up as much space as possible. It used to be easy but as all of the kids get married, one by one, they take their ornaments and the tree looks a little more sparse every year (I am secretly pleased because then I get to put all of my ornaments front and center). One of the radios in the kitchen is tuned to one of those radio stations playing Christmas music 24/7 starting right after Thanksgiving and for some reason, it's not so bad when it's at home. Slowly, presents start congregating under the tree and even though it's never too many, it also looks perfect and full on the old tree skirt that has the 12 Days of Christmas embroidered around it. Stockings are laid out on the fireplace and the white tree advent calendar that never has any candy in it is hung above the railing on the stairs.
On December 1st, something just felt kind of different about Christmas this year, and yet everything seems the same. If anything, it's kind of worse. My apartment is even less decorated than before, I have to work even more, and be with family even less. Regardless, I can't put my finger on it, but something is different. Maybe it's because I started out the month with family, and can now bear the next two weeks of wrapping up classes before I get to see them again. Maybe it was the office decorations I see everyday that are really quite impressive. Maybe it's because I heard my first Christmas song in a commercial last week and even though I don't remember the song or the product (it was not the Victoria's Secret ad, but I have to admit: Carol of the Bells is my favorite Christmas song), it made me so happy my eyes thought someone was chopping onions in my room. Maybe it's because I know there won't be much else this Christmas besides service and family, but I finally figured out that's all I need. Or maybe it really only hit just tonight, after we went caroling to some people that may or may not have needed to know that there was a haphazardly formed group of their peers that have found some common ground every Monday night, that miss them when they don't come. Whatever the reason for my attitude this season, it's refreshing.