When I was younger, my family built holiday anticipation with advent services at our church and our family’s “Christmas House.” Wednesday night advent services were common among my friends, but I wasn’t too old before I found out that the Christmas House was unique.
The three-foot cardboard house was made years ago by my great grandmother for my father and his four siblings. It is covered in snow-white cotton and the front is covered with 12 little doors. There is even a snow-covered pouch with a sleigh full of miniature wrapped presents to welcome in visitors.
Each morning in the 12 days leading up to the 25th, my sister, brother and I would run downstairs to see what gift had been left for us in the Christmas House.
They were always small – crayons, dollar store toys, promotional calendars from a seed salesman – but we were so excited that eventually the rule was made that no one was allowed to show off their gift until everyone had been to the Christmas House.
Every day started with a small something to make it special as we were reminded that Christmas was coming.
As an adult, I still seem to need daily reminders to tell me Christmas is around the corner. I spent last December without any of the normal holiday indicators.
Christmas day was like the day before and the day after – sunny, humid and over 90 degrees. Our tree was a potted palm tree with a sprinkling of red bulbs and a lone string of lights. I could count the number of Christmas carols I sang that year on one hand. When January arrived, part of me was still waiting for the holiday excitement to start.
This year, I savored every bit of the holidays. I’ve sent out handwritten cards, had a cookie baking party, sung carols with gusto, and even welcome the cold weather. I am so thankful I was able to spend all day with my family, instead of a 30-minute Skype conversation over a bad internet connection.
I hope as I move through life, I don’t move too far away from appreciating the value of small things that prepare us for different seasons. I hope the sounds of my 55 year-old downstairs neighbor singing along with Christmas carols always makes me smile. I hope I always have time to spend a day baking cookies with old friends. I hope I never start to think the little things aren’t worth the time or effort.
A belated Merry Christmas to all of you and may you have all the best in the coming year.