NOTE: The following discourse is directed primarily at people who find themselves in a “we’re just not going to decorate this year” moment. Those of you who are not there might find some help here as you encounter those people yourself!
The halls of our townhouse are thoroughly decked.
- There are 10 trees, some of them decoraTIVE and some of them decoraTED (that’s down from an all-time high of 23 just a few years ago… we are, after all, simplifying). There are trees on all 3 floors and even a Charlie Brown tree with a single, dangling ornament and a little blue blanket!
- There are a dozen Nativities – some as small as an ornament, others about 3 ft tall – some to look at and some to play with.
- “The stockings are hung by the chimney with care…”
- There are lights outside and inside.
- Then there are the little touches Adele adds that makes it just perfect – funny signs, snow globes, Christmas books, a little village over the sliding door, holiday quilts… it’s all very festive!
We took 3, half-days to stroll down memory lane, tell stories, laugh, cry, and worship the Christ of Christmas as we decked our little halls this year.
Along the way I got curious about Christmas decorating and decorations. Here are a few of the things I learned:
People all over the world – particularly those who live farther away from the equator – have historically brought green things inside during the winter time to help lift their spirits. As those people met and embraced Christ, they started finding ways to use the rhythms they were accustomed to as a way of celebrating Incarnation (and other elements of The Story as well – but we’ll stick to Christmas!).
As to the Christmas tree, the stories are many…
One says that the first Christmas tree was birthed by an unnamed monk who used the triangular shape of the local evergreen trees to illustrate the Trinity to students.
Another says that Martin Luther used candles on a small tree as an object lesson, talking about stars twinkling through the dark night when Christ was born.
Yet another says the Christmas tree originated with Boniface. In that story the old saint is making his way through a forest when he comes across the tragedy of a human sacrifice about to take place at the foot of an oak tree. He stops the sacrifice and downs the tree. Then, in the ruins of the oak, he sees a single fir tree still standing. This little tree he used as an illustration to teach “the idolaters” that they could actually cease their ways and worship only Christ – the Bringer of Life ever green.
Whatever the roots, there is general agreement that the Christmas tree was popularized in Germany, embraced in England (Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, was born in Germany) and came to America from there.
Ornaments all started as further symbols of celebrated life by way of fruit and nuts hung in trees. Hard cookies, gingerbread, and candy canes were added some time later. Then popcorn was strung and cranberries were added for color. All of it depicting life – a gift from God by means of His Christ – to be celebrated!
Hanging stockings by the fire is both decorative and practical – whether they were freshly washed or just wet from a day of slogging about in the snow, they needed to dry! The fireplace was the perfect place for them each evening. The story goes that the generous Nicholas overheard villagers talking of a poor man with 3 daughters who couldn’t afford a single Christmas gift. Nicholas set aside some money for each of the girls, crept into the house when everyone was asleep (no locks back then, so crept in wasn’t at all cree-py!), noticed the stockings hanging by the fire and decided to deposit the money there.
Live Nativity Scenes date back at least to the 1300’s and Italy, but the carved type for indoor use only go back to the 1600’s and Germany. There the little pieces were used as object lessons to tell The Story of Incarnation.
Burl Ives, in the unforgettable form of a snowman, reminded millions of us each year that ‘silver and gold decorations’ look good on a Christmas tree. Nevertheless, the classic colors of Christmas decorating are green and red. Have you ever wondered why? I’ve already mentioned green is a symbol of life everlasting. Red was favored by early Christ-followers to remember that Jesus came to give His very life as the means to this incredible life.
I could go on and on, but I’ll stop to make my point: There is nothing childish about Christmas decorating.
I have heard wwwwaaaaayyyyyyy too many people say, “we’re just not going to decorate this year.”
Most of them (though not all) are people at or about my age/stage of life… they are what sociologists call empty nesters. Their universally flawed logic goes like this, “Well, the kids are gone.”
To all of them I say: REALLY?
If you spent all those years decorating just for the kids, you were missing the point anyway.
Don’t stop decorating now – start decorating for good reasons…
Decorate to remember – to celebrate – to tell The Story.
Come on… turn off the ’25 Days of Christmas,’ climb out of the Lazy Boy, and Deck Those Halls!!