One year, early in my marriage when our children all had four feet and fur coats, I decided not to decorate for Christmas. I was knee-deep in coursework and research projects in graduate school, my sweet husband had a new job traveling extensively, and dragging out the boxes of ornaments and decor just seemed like one big thing I could scratch off the "to do"list. I purchased a beautiful centerpiece of fresh evergreen and red roses from a local florist, plopped it in the middle of the kitchen table, and considered it Christmas. I felt smug, as if I were outsmarting all those crazy decorating people with the trees lashed to the roofs of their cars, those same trees that would soon be creating more work by dropping a daily dose of stray needles embedding themselves into berber carpet (yes, this was the late 90's).
Fast forward a couple of weeks to dinner with my mother-in-law. She had all of decorations up for her own enjoyment. She pointed out the things that she had accumulated over the years, many as handmade gifts from family and friends. She then told me a bit about some of her interior design clients who had asked her to help with their holiday decor, and told me her philosophy: "It's all about making memories."
She went on to explain that, when her kids were young, each year they eagerly awaited the unpacking of certain ornaments, Nativity sets, and sculpted Santas. The unwrapping and display of these objects were part of the tradition, as much as the sounds of the Christmas records they played each year without fail, the Santa's Whiskers cookies she baked every year, and the boiled custard and the special little cups that held it. This redundancy, year after year, became "Christmas" for her family, and created the memories that live on.
Ten years later I uphold the traditions religiously--the nativity set from the 1970's that can only be described as possibly too grand, the Advent box from Target that holds a daily treat, the carolers on top of the piano, the crystal pine trees that have graced our dining room table without fail. These items are not expensive or especially valuable to anyone else, but for us they are touchstones that take us back to Christmases past.
Yes, there have been years for high shelves, a tree behind a baby gate, and a bit more caution when toddling toes and curious hands threatened to literally break the camel's back, but I like to think that I am "making memories" each holiday season. Not decorating for Christmas? Bah humbug!