With only a matter of days before Christmas, anyone seeking a little holiday spirit needs only to turn on the television for a deluge of seasonal specials on any number of channels. If you were searching for an extra boost this past week I hope you came across The Great Christmas Light Fight, a competition featuring two sets of four families from across the country that compete for the best Christmas light display.
I don’t want to say these families are over the top, but I believe I can see the lights on the house in Texas from here.
If you drive by our house in the evening from now until Christmas you can admire the Spouse’s excellent hanging light display across our shrubs and garage as well as our collection of penguins (it’s a thing with us) and even a small lit up spiral tree. Compared to the houses in this competition, we are a single matchstick lost among the floodlights at Gillette Stadium.
Do we do it because our kids appreciate it? I believe they do when they are home, but let’s be real. They are grown, Second Born is only home on college breaks and First Born will be with her future in-laws this Christmas. So we can’t really use them as an excuse. I guess we do it because of the memories and the sentiment it evokes.
For much the same reason, we search for the perfect tree every year, digging it up at a tree farm, lugging it home and decorating it over a string of busy pre-Christmas evenings. This is Second Born’s favorite thing to do, trudge through the selection of trees, choose one, then another, then one more before almost always going back to the first one. She will bargain with her dad as to who will be getting down on the cold ground to make the first cut (usually her) and then who will do the real chopping so that it falls slowly to the ground (usually him).
When First Born was part of this parade, she and I would pretend to be grumbling as we followed, teasing her sister about her indecisiveness. But I realize now it has never been just a matter of her not being able to make a choice. What it really came down to was that this was a family tradition, a moment in time that we shared, whether stumbling over snow mounds or slip-sliding in mud. Her choice kept us there, sipping hot chocolate in the barn once our tree was chosen and awaiting pickup, keeping the outside world and its constant interruptions at bay for a little while longer.
We don’t always recognize the glue that holds our family together. It could be something as simple as a favorite holiday movie everyone gathers for, the banter of siblings as they compare who has the most ornaments on the tree, or a snowball fight on Christmas Eve. It may not always be the prettiest package or the picture perfect setting, and it may take a few years before you realize one day that what seemed inconsequential at the time is what you look forward to the most.
It’s so easy to be wrapped up (slight pun intended) in the angst of the holidays, between shopping and cooking and scheduling our lives to fit everybody’s needs. That is why it is even more important at this time of year to notice those little things that make our family unique. With less than two weeks to go, I hope that in between the rush you and the ones you love are tossing snowballs at each other, griping about trying to find the one light that’s making all the others go out, and creating a competition to decide who gets to put the star on top of the tree.
And I hope that you can’t wait to do it all again next year.