A Simple Christmas
We have more evergreen branches and pine cones in our little apartment than we have surfaces to put them on. After Thanksgiving I carried a pair of clippers into the woods behind my mom’s house to snap off the fragrant, feathery branches of a fallen white pine. They went into a garbage bag, then into my brother’s trunk, then into a taxi cab, and then were slung over my shoulder and carried up the steps to our second-floor apartment. They are draped on top of a mirror (still holding some of last year’s Christmas cards tucked around its edges), on windowsills, and in vases on the dining table and the bedroom, with a line of pine cones in front of the television. They are a very long way from home.
In that sweet week after Thanksgiving before December hit, I caught the same “make things!” bug Molly did. I bought cheapo squat candles from the grocery store and wrapped them in brown paper bags. I had been inspired at an overpriced restaurant. The candles on our table stood inside slim glass holders wrapped in thin brown paper. The light was pure warmth and the idea was dead simple, just my kind. I made them one afternoon while watching the final season of Lark Rise to Candleford. (My, is that Gabriel smoldering. But don’t tell me what happens!)
Now on a crafting roll, I bought charming, old-fashioned scrapbook paper and watched The Goodbye Girl (watch it! so good!) on Saturday, looping the cut strips into long paper trains for our tree. It’s a giant douglas fir that stands tall next to me in our living room corner right now in front of a street-facing window. It smells like heaven and nearly touches the ceiling. We carried it home Friday night, Sebastian leading the way holding the heavy base and me trailing behind carrying the light crown. I still have a sap on my jacket.
It does not escape me that three years ago, we couldn’t afford a tree.
I loved what Elizabeth said about Little Women being the inspiration for her holidays this year: “simple and charitable, but also festive and merry and creative.” I feel the same way, and keep slowly turning the pages of that book wanting its sweet perspective to inform my life for as long as possible.
And after such a long crafting lull, I’m using the quiet joy and creativity of the season to get out of my head and use my hands. It feels good to be creative in a new way, to not rely on the will of my intellect to twist a sentence until it suits. That’s been feeling hard lately. But crafting warm golden light and handmade decorations and artfully placing tree branches around our little home seems an important part of creating the atmosphere that is my favorite part of this season: one of warmth and generosity, care and homemade mirth. For me, the sweetness of this time of year is all about the feeling of it, the way all the sensory abundance adds up to something singular. There is a woodland tree in our living room! I light the candles when I get home in the evenings and drink saison. There is something slow-simmered on the stove, and a last-minute invitation for someone to come over and share it. If we can slow down to hear it, there’s a hush.
And I still have one more garland to go. Cranberries are up next.
I’m of course interested to hear how you all keep your holidays simple and meaningful, and what traditions mean the most to you. Please share!