Over the last few years, I have been downsizing Christmas even more. Decorating is real work and it has gotten a lot harder to dig all of the decorations out of storage by myself, so I don’t. Once upon a time, we bought live trees that we planted on our property after Christmas. Then, for a few years, we wrestled a cut tree into the living room. A four-foot high artificial tree that had been my grandmother’s was our tree of choice while the kids were teenagers. That was replaced by the foot-high tree that used to be my dining room table decoration. Last year, I just stacked presents in a tree-like shape. That worked pretty well because when all the presents were opened there wasn’t much to clean up and put away. This year, I’m using a small vintage style ceramic tree that I painted on an outing with my friends. While the decorating has changed, the real miracle of Christmas is a constant I can count on.
Now, the kids, out and about all day, arrive just in time for Christmas Eve dinner and then they are off again, visiting friends. Christmas morning involves a check that buys me a half hour of their time. The gift exchange takes less than thirty minutes before life goes on. We still visit my Mom, where chaos reigns in a house filled with cousins, aunts, and uncles. Our Christmas tradition of oyster stew for lunch continues and, by late afternoon, I still sit in the silence of my empty house. A few steps beyond normal, my thoughts turn to a long ago, silent, holy night, and I am grateful for the calm in my life.