Why You Should Decorate for Christmas...
For the past few years, I have always resisted the pressure that I feel when it comes to putting up copious amounts of fancy Christmas decorations. Our first year of marriage, we opted for a “Tacky Christmas” theme with all of our decor being from Dollarama, Goodwill or handmade. Dillon made a cardboard reindeer head that we mounted to the wall, I transformed our refrigerator into a snowman, and we covered all of our photos on the walls in wrapping paper and called it a day. In hindsight, it was seriously horrible stuff. It looked horrendous, but provided a small way to connected to others who loved the decorating process while still allowing me to remain true to my thrifty roots. Balance baby.
Well, a lot has changed since that first Christmas together and as we approach another Christmas season, I am once again presented with options of how to “prepare” our home with holiday decor.
At face value, decorating for Christmas can be filled with misaligned intentions. It can stem from a motivation for beautiful instagram photos and family snapshots, or can be rooted in a desire to keep up with the expectations of others. Or, decorating a home can be quite the opposite.
Lately, I’ve approached home improvements and decorating as a spiritual practice of sorts. It is so therapeutic for me to do a deep clean of our space and intentionally think through ways to make our tiny house a space for my tribe to flourish. I love arranging and rearranging furniture and decor until I have just the right balance to represent our family’s style and to reflect the things that matter to us. So I’ve made a small list of why I think its ok and maybe even important to think through our spaces with intentionality and how decorating for the holidays can actually bring us closer to Jesus.
Decorating is an outlet for creativity - Decorating a space is an outlet for creativity. How should the lights be hung? Where will you put Grandma’s old Christmas sign? How will you adorn the mantle? What family cookies will you bake to share with your neighbors? Christmas is full of opportunities for creativity to abound, with no specific rules on what color lights or real tree vs. artificial. For the most part, anything goes, and what often makes for the best decorations are the pieces that elicit deep and fond memories of seasons past. New is not always better.
Decorating creates an atmosphere of anticipation - Advent is a season full of anticipation all pointing towards the hope of what is to come and changing our daily scenery can be such a tangible way to help build that anticipation in a way that reflects our values. Shopping malls and online sales are building anticipation, but not necessarily towards things that last or things that matter. In our home, we want our family to start to anticipate the celebration of Christ and the hope of new beginnings.
Decor honors our legacy - As a child, my favorite part of Christmas decorations were the ornaments that we placed on our tree. There was always a friendly debate between my parents on what type of decorations we should have on our tree with the options being ”fun” or “Martha Stewart”. But over the years, our tree became a blend of both matching ornaments and homemade decorations. I always loved digging through the boxes and being reminded of the moments connected to some of those ornaments. There is one from my very first Christmas as a baby and a pair of ballet shoes from the season where I danced. There is even a misspelled ornament on our tree from the one Christmas where my grandma bought each of the grandchildren a name ornament, but she couldn’t find one for my sister, so she decided to sharpie out letters thinking that no one would notice…and we crack up laughing each year we bring it out. Traditions and legacy are a significant part of the meaning of this season; honoring what has come before us while carrying on new traditions in the midst of the nostalgia.
Decorating creates a space for connection and hospitality to occur - For many, the Christmas season is an opportunity to extend hospitality to others. It’s important work to create an atmosphere for “strangers to cast off their strangeness” (to quote Henri Nouwen). If moving your couches around or creating a tablescape can communicate to others that their presence matters, than that my friend is important work that God honors.
Decor provides physical reminders of seasonal symbolism - The Christmas season is packed full of symbolic decor that continuously points us to the reason for the season. Angels and lights and stars and trees are all pieces that direct our thoughts towards hope and life and light, even in the midst of incredible darkness. Gifts are a way we can honor and celebrate the uniqueness of each person in our circle, specifically carving out ways to bless them.
Whatever your take on decor, whether your trees are flocked or natural or made of tinsel, give yourself permission to approach this season different than others. It’s ok to want to make your space reflect celebration and to seize the opportunity to pour into your environment a bit more than you normally may. But this is also a disclaimer that decorations and hosting and all of the holiday hustle SHOULD NOT be a source of your stress. I think that it breaks God’s heart, knowing that we take a season meant for celebrating Christ and turn it into debt and stomach ulcers.
Do what’s best for you and your people and enjoy the process!