Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Spirit

"It's the most wonderful time of the year!" Clearly the singer of that song hadn't recently lost a loved one.  What was once my favorite holiday is now a continual reminder that I am on my own.  I love Christmas, it is my favorite season.  But since the death of my late husband, its just different.  I don't have the Christmas spirit this year and I am purposefully forcing myself into the holiday mood.

In many ways this feels like the first Christmas without Him.  Last year Christmas was 4 weeks after his death.  I was still numb, and in shock.  The holidays were at best an after thought.  We made it through, but it wasn't at all a normal holiday season.  One tree, no decorations, no stockings, no nativity.  We barely had gifts and a tree.  This year is different.  This year it is a normal Christmas season. And I'm facing it on my own. It is so awkward and strange.  It feels a little more empty than I remember it, almost like I'm forgetting something, or something is missing.

He is missing. We did everything together.  We set up the tree together.  We decorated the house together.  We watched Christmas movies together.  And now I'm not wanting to do any of it because it feels strange. I know though, that it is in my best interest to take this Christmas season head on, instead of avoid it.  I'm forcing the Christmas spirit, but it needs to be done.  And the quicker I begin new traditions and find "my" way through the holidays, the better off I'll be.

Where to start?  Well, we need a tree.  A real tree was just to hard without a man around, so I ordered a fake one for the first time ever.  Tree... check!  It came, and on Saturday while my step daughter was over we decided to put it up.  Look at me, I'm making Christmas happen!  That is until I realize the tree stand that is included in the box... wasn't.  I wanted to lose it and cry.  After all, I'm really trying here and I didn't need that.  We put the tree on hold, as we wait for the tree stand to be shipped out.  And the Christmas spirit that had started to flutter through the home, escaped out the window.

What else is there? How about some Christmas songs?  Easy.  I turn on Pandora Radio.  Holiday music... check!  Big tree is a bust, but we have a little tree for the front window, let's start there.  I bought new ornaments last year, and we decided to put them on this tree.  A small way to change things up as I recreate a new norm for the holidays.  Music is playing, kids are hanging ornaments, Christmas spirit is once again stirring.  Small Tree Decorated... check.

Let's move on... the stair case! I hung lighted garland across the hallway and up the stairs.  By now I'm actually enjoying the decorating.  "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas."  My son and I set out our Nativity set, which is by far my favorite Christmas decoration! I have a growing collection of Fontanini pieces, which is the nativity version of a Christmas village.  My son and I talk about each piece and their role in the Christmas story as we set them out.  We set baby Jesus behind the stable, and I tell my son that on Christmas morning, when Jesus is born, he will place Him in the manger.  The true meaning of Christmas... check!

The decorating continues with poinsettia plants on the stairs and fireplace, a tree on the landing, and trees on the front porch.  Now comes the decision.  Should I do outside lights on the bushes?  This was Jonathan's task, which I asked each year, and he hated doing.  I've never done outside lights, do I really want to take this on?  Well if I'm finding my own groove to Christmas, then there will be lights on the bushes.  And on all of them!  Glowing bushes... check!  I felt very proud and accomplished to do the outside lights. I'm making my way.  I'm surviving.  I'm independent and capable.  It actually feels pretty great.  Just some lights on the bushes, but a huge affirmation to me!

By now the Christmas spirit is flowing up and down the stairs, through every room and even found its way in my heart.  It worked!  I made the conscious choice to make my own Christmas, to find new traditions, and get excited about the season.  The emptiness is much more subtle, and I'm looking forward to Christmas.  I have set up a few Christmas events at my house right before the holiday.  Again, I know that something positive to look forward to will help ease the sting of the holiday season.

I challenge you to invite the Christmas spirit in your home.  Even you don't feel like it, just get it stirring.  Make your list, and start checking off what you need to find your new groove for the holidays.  Plan a few activities or events you never did before, and give yourself something to look forward to.  Welcome the holidays! They are coming regardless, and how you approach it determines whether you will survive or thrive!

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