My dad, who divides his time between Wisconsin and California, came to visit us a few weeks ago. We had a lovely time catching up and during his stay we went to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Fort Worth for a tour of how paper money is created (side note: I would strongly suggest this tour, it’s an easy drive from our area and an interesting topic for all ages to learn), my dad manages other people’s money for a living so this excursion was right up his alley.
As we learned during the tour, the U.S. Department of Treasury goes to great lengths (from ink to paper) to ensure the currency is authentic because of the growing number of people who are working at creating counterfeit bills. Somehow, in the process of talking about counterfeit cash, we happened to begin discussing the holidays, gift giving, and the general spirit of authenticity during the season.
One of the things that launched us into the discussion was my complaint that it had been a long time since our family (meaning my husband and I and our kids) had had a “real” Christmas tree. Before we moved to Texas a decade ago, one of our favorite December outings was to get bundled up and take the kids to a local tree farm in our home state of Wisconsin to choose and cut down our version of the perfect tree. The problem with this endeavor was I often forgot to water the tree and long before Santa actually came down our chimney it was a fire hazard, or left needles everywhere making for a highly unpleasant outcome if you happen to step on a bunch of them with no shoes on (akin to stepping on a Lego brick). The answer, we decided, was to buy an artificial tree.
I was okay with the artificial tree for the first few years, it made sense and I was happy to have one less thing to remember to do during the holidays. After a while though, I was less jazzed about pulling something out of a box and spending a great deal of time straightening branches so it would look real. My growing distaste for the fake tree was alleviated last year when we decided to go home for Christmas and skipped putting up the tree altogether. But, here we are again, the season upon us and my disdain for the artificial tree prompting a conversation about the value in keeping the holidays both real and simple.
Is it just me, or does it feel as if each year the holiday season gets longer? For several years now I have seen Christmas décor displayed weeks before Halloween both in stores and in the yards of some of my neighbors and because Sirius XM has a dedicated Holiday station, my daughter has been singing Christmas carols in the car for the past month.
I believe this prolonged exposure to the sights and sounds of the holidays makes the experience less unique or special and unconsciously conjures a response that we need to do a bunch of stuff or buy a bunch of items that will enable us to enjoy our time together.
This year and the following I am going to lead our family in celebrating the season the “realest” way I know how…we’ll start by purchasing a real tree (probably from Home Depot because the tree farms here charge an arm and a leg and I haven’t found one in our area that actually let’s you pick it out and cut it down) and keeping gifts to a minimum. A few years ago I adopted a holiday gift giving theme circulating around Facebook that I may resurrect…Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. Each of our kids got the four gifts from that theme, it actually helped me be creative and kept them from trying to think of a lot of things they didn’t really need.
We will actually be celebrating Christmas with all five of our kids (one son is coming in all the way from Scotland) and I can’t think of anything more simple and meaningful than having a Charlie Brown tree with all of their handmade ornaments on it! I look forward to preparing meals and holiday cookies together as well, we can share some treats with neighbors too, that’s always a great way to help spread the spirit of giving.
This holiday season, try keeping things simple and real. Embrace the time together and emphasize kindness to others by finding some extra patience and doing one thing you wouldn’t normally do. Put the emphasis on taking care of both yourself and your most valuable relationships.
From my home to yours, cheers to a blessed holiday season!