Decor,  Life,  Parenting

Holiday Frame of Mind: Why this heathen is putting up a nativity set.

Christmas is coming, y’all.

No, I’m not shunning Thanksgiving. In fact, I’m in the throws of preparing to host it. However, for the last few years, I’ve decorated for Christmas right before Thanksgiving. We enjoy being surrounded by twinkling Christmas trees and garland galore while we eat our turkey.

And we’re not one dang bit sorry!

I have so many bins of holiday decor at this point that I honestly think they are breeding in the basement and multiplying. For the last couple of years, I’ve stuck to the same “theme” though, if you will. I’m drawn to vintage and nostalgic items. Not just for the way they look – that’s actually secondary. But mostly, because of the way they make me feel.

The magic of Christmas from my childhood and even teen years is so vivid in my mind, to the point that – for awhile – I became obsessed in trying to recreate those identical moments for the girls. But I’ve realized that I can’t duplicate my childhood. We need to create our own, unique traditions – and we have created many of our own (with a large splash of my childhood experiences mixed in).

I can’t fully cut the chord, people.

As an adult, Christmas becomes more about the kids (and, for many, obviously Jesus… I’m getting to that, wait for it). So, as I get older each year, I’m finding that being surrounded by nostalgic decor makes the holidays that much more special to me, because the waves of happy memories wash over me with every ceramic lit Christmas tree and colored lightbulb I see.

 

My mom made hers in ceramics class and looked much like this.

 

If you’ve ever seen (the original) Miracle on 34th Street – and shame on you if you haven’t! – you know that Kris Kringle says, “Oh Christmas isn’t just a day. It’s a frame of mind.”  And I couldn’t agree more. I feel things with every piece of the holiday surrounding me. I feel memories and moments – and I want the girls to feel those moments, too.

And there’s something in particular that you may find surprising that I just love at Christmas.

A good ol’ nativity scene.

If you know me, you know that I don’t talk about my beliefs really. I don’t find it necessary. I was raised Catholic and I went to church every Sunday growing up. My mom was the religious education director at our church. Unlike many, I did not have any bad experiences in the church. However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve fallen very comfortably into the category of, well… I guess you’d say hopefully optimistic, but fine either way. I don’t align myself with one faith or another. But I also don’t consider myself an atheist. The truth is I don’t know what’s out there and I’m not searching to find out.

I am perfectly, annoyingly (to some) content.

I know that some people find the above outlook unsettling. Now add the bonus of my husband being a full blown atheist and we’ve gotten our fair share of no less than the following: condemnation, pity, disbelief, projection, anger, fear, threat of hell, threat of our children going to hell, dismissal (“you’re just searching”), and, my personal favorite, the proclamation that we can’t have a moral compass without faith or God.

Oh, Lordy.

Literally.

My husband, Brian, and I handle these things very differently. I, in my naivety of being raised in a somewhat liberal but religious home that didn’t wear religion on its sleeve, am always shocked at how incredulous and angry other people get about our faith (or lack thereof). But then I don’t give it much thought after and I move on. It’s more of a surprised amusement. I have happy memories of the church and I have happy memories without the church. Basically, I’m all good.

My husband? Eh… he gets a little more fired up.

God love him

(Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

So, to get back to Christmas. I wholly agree that the holidays are a feeling for me. And, I was recently telling Brian that I love a good nativity scene and may put one up this year.  (For the record, my big bad atheist husband did not object or care either way.) For me, growing up, there was a feeling of sweet anticipation in seeing the nativity scene set up in all of December with the empty manger, knowing the baby Jesus would magically appear on Christmas morning. I have such sweet memories of going to midnight mass with my mom and seeing that little baby in the cradle finally!

(I also get ridiculously indignant when I see a baby in the manger before Christmas. You’re doing it wrong, I think. I’m very haughty for an ex-Christian.)

I don’t have to be religious to love the idea of it all. I think there is such magic and beauty in the story, and I can appreciate it and display it without having to be 100% certain it’s real or ever happened.

*cough* SANTA *cough*

Anyway…

I was listening to a podcast with Mila Kunis recently and she was saying how she is not religious, but her husband is – and that they were currently celebrating Shabbat.  She said something that is so aligned with what I also believe: “I love the idea of — regardless of where we are in the world, regardless of what we’re doing, on Friday night, we take a minute to just acknowledge one another, to acknowledge our children, to acknowledge our family, say I love you, apologize for all the dumb s**t that we did, and move on.”  For her, Shabbat is not about fully adopting that particular type of faith, but recognizing the beautiful tradition and creating memories based off of the idea with her family.

That is how I feel about faith. I think that so much good can be found in every belief.  There are so many beautiful traditions, whether you be Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, etc. For me personally, I do not feel comfortable stating one is superior or right over another. I love to learn from each of them.

My five-year-old, Ivy has asked me a few times where we go when we die and I always tell her, “No one knows! It’s an adventure!”  and then I go on to say, “Some people think…” and I tell her different theories.  This year, when she asks me who the baby is in the manger, I will tell her, “There’s this lovely belief that…” and tell her all about Mary and Joseph and the Three Wise Men.

(I may or may not throw a Wise Woman or two in there for good measure…)

Ahem.

So, this is what I want to say to you as we kick off this holiday season. Do not get caught up in how people wish you greetings. Do not become indignant whether a store sign says Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. Be content in your faith (or lack thereof) without demanding it from others.  Find joy in each person’s celebration.

And do not stop yourself from buying a menorah or a nativity set no matter what you believe!

The holidays are many things to many different people, but no matter what you believe, they are almost always a feeling. I hope you feel so much joy in yours, no matter how you celebrate them.

xo,

Jen

 

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