This was an unusual holiday season for us. Lisa and I gave up the gift giving portion of the Christmas years ago, opting for experiences which create memories instead. This year, we left all of the rest of it off too.
In years past we made sure our tree was up on the day after Thanksgiving, and we would go through the motions of church, and other decorations around the house, while figuring out who we would spend Christmas with, and where.
This year we were in Sydney, Australia on the day after Thanksgiving, and it was above 80 degrees, with plenty of sun. This did not create an atmosphere where we felt like we were getting ready for the holiday season. We returned on December 4, with the plan to leave Kansas again on December 18. With only 2 weeks, we asked why should we put up a tree at all. We didn’t, and also decided we would skip all of it – the cookies, food, snacks, decorations, etc. It was nice to take a year off, and to spend the holiday in a warmer climate where walks on the beach were the norm. Lisa and I slept in the Everglades on Christmas night, after having a picnic at a little outdoor table. Honestly, I couldn’t have imagined a more wonderful way to have spent the day.
Still, we both came to the conclusion that we need our Christmas tree each year. The reason for that is a tradition we started years ago – whenever we visit anything interesting or memorable, we buy an ornament to place on our tree, and thus talk about these great experiences we have had in years past. That is my favorite Christmas tradition, and honestly it is one of my favorite traditions, period. Even while we were tooling around Florida, we stopped and bought a Christmas ornament to place on our tree next year, and as I paid for it, we lamented not putting up the tree this year.
What did we learn? First, Christmas is what you make it. Be thankful for what God has given us, not only on Christmas, but every day. Also, don’t make Christmas about getting more, but about gratitude. Last, even though there are few traditions Lisa and I hold dear, we still have at least one that we want to honor each Christmas from now on, because it is our shared experiences that make our life so amazing.