I have been thinking a lot lately about how great Christmas was as a kid.
I think my parents handled Christmas just right. We always had a beautiful Christmas tree and a lovely Nativity set on the piano. We'd had that set as long as I could remember and it was a beautiful reminder of why we were celebrating. I always looked forward to unpacking it and setting it up just the way it had been set up the year before and the year before that.
But what I'm really thankful for now is that I never learned from my parents that Christmas was "the busiest time of the year." I'm sure that behind the scenes there was some stress about getting everything together for four kids every year, but as far as we could tell, Christmas was always a peaceful, happy time.
My parents didn't send Christmas cards every year. We didn't always make gingerbread houses. But we DID always use our special Christmas placemats! Last year my little brother dug those placemats out. I think we had kinda forgotten about them (but not my brother, because he remembers EVERYthing). But as soon as they were out, we were so excited! We put each one where it went when we were kids. Each of us (including my parents) had our own Christmas placemat. Mine was the gingerbread house. My sister's was the teddy bear. My older brother had the candy canes and my younger brother had Santa Claus. My mom's placemat was a Christmas wreath and my dad's was toy soldiers. Of course! The memories of how excited we were to use the special placemats came rushing back.
But it was such a simple joy. It didn't take a lot of money or preparation. It was just a simple tradition that we loved.
My family has some other special Christmas traditions. Every year we play Christmas carols on the homemade chimes. It started at my grandparents' house, and now my parents have carried on the tradition and I even have my own set of chimes now. Along with this tradition is the tradition for the older kids to complain that we have to play the chimes (even though I know they love it). Those older kids are now in their late 20s and 30s. They still complain. And then they still sit down with a chime and a butterknife and play their part at Grandma's house.
And who could forget about Christmas pajamas?
One very special and simple tradition we have is singing our favorite Christmas songs together on Christmas Eve. Sometimes with the piano, sometimes without. It's wonderful either way. We take out the hymnbook and sing through our favorite songs about Christ's birth. Christmas doesn't get better than this.
My parents didn't throw or even attend fancy Christmas parties. Sometimes we had Christmas lights on the house, and sometimes we didn't.
But by not worrying too much about making everything perfect, that's exactly what they did. Christmas was a special, peaceful time. Perfect.