I’m not typically a kitsch person. I like my surfaces clutter-free and have a strong aversion to dusting lots of knick-knacks. I admire the collections and tasteful decorating techniques of others, but just can’t seem to pull it off. You could say I have a minimalist approach to decorating – like the Hemingway of interior design.
We had other traditions I savored too. It seems like there was always a box of that horrible ribbon candy on the coffee table during the holidays. Arranged like pastel ribbons of jewels, I broke off a little delicate piece, sucked on it and then remembered why it remained in the box, uneaten, for the remainder of the season. Every year, my parents would pull out the old Firestone albums-- the ones they received at gas stations (back when they were full-service). We'd play them on the stereo console and listen to Bing, Sinatra or another crooner fill the air with dreams of a white Christmas and chestnuts roasting on open fires. Of course, there were the T.V. specials-- pre-DVD. Oh, the anticipation of the chosen night when Rudulph or Santa would fill our sets with stop-motion animation of pure delight.
So each year I too drag out the boxes, open them and lovingly place the collected pieces around the house. I hope my kids are building memories, admiring the old tin Santa that was Dad’s when he was a boy, or the ornate ceramic pieces a friend of mine made for me over twenty years ago. Some collections, like the snowmen, started very unintentionally. It seemed like for several years they were very popular gifts and ornaments from friends. I now have a mantel full of various shapes and forms of the white, three-tiered fellows. Over the years, I’ve collected a few decorative reminders of the manger scene. I love each one, because, for me, they are the reminders of my religion and why I celebrate the season.
Truthfully, all these kitschy decorations still fill me with warm feelings. The old-fashioned ceramic angel winds up and plays Silent Night. My great aunt painted her and gifted it to me when I was a little girl. I balk at the idea that she looks like an antique, until I remember I will be 50 in the coming year. It is an antique. My sister created a couple of my angels and snowmen—a result of her talented crafting. They are dear to me, too.
Ultimately, it’s not about the stuff, though. We pared down quite a bit, shedding almost two boxes worth of decorations a few years back. The things didn't have significance to me and it was just too much to store. It’s the decorations that remind me of a friend’s love and gifting, or the little homemade ornament my kids made in grade school that fill me with the warmth of the season. And, for me, it’s the reminder of the guiding star in the sky and the baby in the manger that makes my heart sing.
So Merry Christmas, my friends. No matter how you celebrate the season or what meaning it has for you, whether it be Christmas or Hanukkah, may all the little knick-knacks you put out, the decorations you carefully unpack with tenderness and fond memories, remind you of the warmth and love of the season.