Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Deck the Halls... And Every Other Available Surface

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.

However, when the holidays roll around, I haul out boxes of Christmas decorations and I become a Kitsch Queen. I think it goes back to my own childhood. I remember being so excited when my mom would decorate for the holidays. There were always favorites I forgot about from year-to-year. She’d pull out the Santa sleigh with his reindeer and set it on the table, and I gently played with it, making up pretend stories about their Christmas adventures. There were ornaments, too—the little elf (the original Elf on the Shelf) that we stuck in the tree, our crazy tree-top star with its sporadic and seemingly non-pattern blinking, the little stockings we hung on the tree that might contain a silver dollar on Christmas morning! Each unique decoration would make me feel warm and cozy inside.

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.


27 comments:

  1. I loved sharing this moment with you Julie. At least I feel like I was there with you as I read about your keepsakes. Thanks for this sweet peak!
    Susie

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and giving it a read. :)

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  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and decorations. It's like Christmas is about abundance...And that includes decorations. Each piece holds thought and memories of love and in our clutter free space, we make just a little bit more room. Abundance in love, yes, that's it.

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    1. I like your take on it, Lisa. Very fitting.

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  3. Precious memories, Julie! I remember the little choir boy and girl candles that we had; you can still get them in retro shops, and I think I need to have a set. My mom's favorite ornaments were the ones that my brother and I made. We didn't do the Santa thing at our house but always celebrated on Christmas Eve, which remains such a magical time for me. Now I decorate with country simplicity, but there's always room for my Hallmark houses and shops collection, now in its 30th year. A very Merry Christmas to you and your family, Julie --- God's abundance is everywhere!

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    1. I love the visual you just created of your country home! I'll be awaiting pictures on your blog. I remember the choir boy and girls too! Yes, you need the candles. Merry Christmas.

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  4. I have a green ceramic tree similar to yours! You probably realize that I'm rather sentimental, which usually means I also end up with a lot of kitsch, and Mom was very crafty, which means I have a great deal of homespun stuff. But I love it all.

    When Mom moved out of her house and in with me, we tried to thin out at that point. I remember throwing a box away full of "trash." It was construction paper Christmas wreaths that we had made as kids in elementary school. She still had them, but they didn't really mean much to any of us.

    Mom marched right out to the curb, grabbed the box, and put it along with all the other stuff. You know...now that box is priceless.

    Wonderful post, Julie.

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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    1. The star broke on the top of the ceramic tree and I've never got it replaced. Oh the homespun stuff is the bestest-- especially now-- it represents a lot of love for you. I'm glad you kept your childhood stuff too-- that's how my mama's heart feels about all my kiddos' creations.

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  5. I remember listening to those old Firestone records my dad brought home from the gas station! I used to play them over and over until I had all of the words memorized. There also is something about waiting for your favorite Christmas special to be on TV. I now have videos of them but it's not as satisfying as knowing you only had once chance to view them.

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    1. Patricia, I so totally agree about the TV specials. Now kids can watch the whenever, but when I was a little, it was a really big deal to look ahead in the TV guide and star the night Charlie Brown or Santa Claus is Coming to Town would be on-- ohhh the anticipation. It just made the holidays that much more special!

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  6. Lovely, Julie! You make me look forward to going home and seeing all my Mom's crazy Christmas decorations! Happy Holidays :)

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    1. Does she have some unique ones? Funny. Ours are pretty typical. Fun to create memories with my own kiddos.

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  7. What may be kitsch to others are priceless treasures to the beholders with warm memories of cherished times.

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    1. Well said. I have to say, though, by the time the holidays are over, I'm ready for it to all come down. ;)

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  8. In the last few years, our collection has been expanded by the addition of my mom's and my mum-in-law's ornaments and decorations. I put them all out. Christmas is one time when less is definitely not more.

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    1. Oh I like the idea of passing down from the families-- we each have a few things from our childhood, but those are precious.

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  9. Great post, Julie. Sally and I do not have much that we saved after our purge, but there is a box of Xmas memories in my nieces closet! Merry Christmas!

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    1. I hope a little holly and mistletoe adorn your camper. Merry Christmas to both of you!

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  10. What I like is a little something in each room--it reminds me of Christmas and I think it also reminds me of the people that gave me the trinket OR even of the time when I got it/bought it/received it, etc. However, one of my very favorite Christmas decs is this VERY GAUDY, homemade, felt Advent calendar in the shape of a Christmas tree that I got at a garage sale for like 50 cents. My daughter LOVES it and loves getting the felt ornaments out each day. :)

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    1. Oh and when your child gets special delight out of an ornament, decoration or in your case the Advent calendar, yes, that is what scores in my heart as well.

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  11. I hope you-all have a very Merry Christmas!

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  12. Glad you shared this. As I write quite a bit about my Jewish traditions, it really makes me appreciate other people's traditions and rituals.

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    1. Likewise, I've really enjoyed reading your posts celebrating your traditions. Thanks.

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  13. It's great that you've collected so many meaningful Christmas decorations. Your kids will also treasure them for years to come, even if they don't appreciate them now. Merry Christmas to you, and your family, Julie!

    Julie

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    1. Thanks, Julie, and to you too. They love them, I know. Just the other day, my daughter stood in front of our snowman themed mantel and declared it her favorite.

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  14. This is a really great post! I enjoyed reading this very much.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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