It has been said that change is the only constant in life. After the past two years, oh boy, would I agree with that. And I’m sure many other people would too.
Last year, thanks to COVID-19, for us there were no big family celebrations or midnight Mass. There were no nice Christmas outfits or fancy hairstyles. Instead, we celebrated in pajamas, sweatpants, and messy buns. It was the first Christmas without my dad, so no arrangements needed to be made for virtual visits to make sure he was included. In short, it was the most untraditional Christmas my family had ever celebrated.
That is, until this year.
Embracing the New
This year my family celebrated Christmas . . . in November . . . in Florida. Yes, you read that right. It was a far cry from our usual Christmas traditions back home in Ohio—cold weather, going to get the Christmas tree, baking cookies. But when you have two kids living out of town, you learn to adapt.
So we sat and exchanged presents at my daughter’s house after enjoying our Thanksgiving dinner. There was no tree, no decorations, no cold weather or chance of snow. But you know what? It worked. We were all together for the first time in a while. We spent time talking—in person, as opposed to the scheduled FaceTime conversations we’ve gotten so used to. We laughed. My husband, Mark, and I reveled in watching our kids reconnect and catch up with each other.
The whole scene made me think of the classic line from the Dr. Seuss cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas!:
“He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”
A Changed Perspective
After we returned home and I started to pull out the Christmas decorations, I thought a lot about our family’s Thanksgiving/Christmas celebration. I thought back to how our kids spent more time focused on each other than they did on the gifts we brought them. I thought about the lack of decorations and how we still had a wonderful celebration of each other and the spirit of the holiday. And I thought about that profound quote from a simple cartoon.
As I unpacked the ornaments, I looked at each one that we had bought on all of our family trips. While I placed each one on the tree, the memories that accompanied it came flooding back, bringing with it a sense of joy to my heart. I thought of how our kids had recounted some of those trips when we were together less than a month ago.
But then I put many of the decorations back into their totes and returned them to the attic. This Christmas would be more about the small things—like time spent together—than the grand displays of decorations or stacks of perfectly wrapped presents.
So, no, our trip to Florida wasn’t the traditional Christmas I have become accustomed to. But it was perfect and certainly captured the spirit of Christmas in the broader sense of what the season represents—love, family, and togetherness. After all, what really is at the heart of Christmas? Isn’t the true focus of the season supposed to be the celebration of a child born in the simplest of surroundings? It’s not about the decorations, the gifts, or the parties.
Dr. Seuss might have been right. “Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”