I grew up with a minimalist Christmas, continued afore the chat became hip with millennials. Not that I lacked a abounding stocking or what was circled in the Sears Wish Book. Santa’s bag consistently brimmed. But we scaled aback decorations and anniversary aliment traditions.
My mother adopted this automated style. Mom was an elementary academy annual abecedary for 25 years. She penciled in anniversary allowance arcade and meal planning amid assignment and abbey activities. Decorating was never big-ticket or time-consuming.
Less was consistently better. She frowned on Griswald-like alfresco displays, affected by Chevy Chase and National Lampoon’s 1989 “Christmas Vacation.”
“Overboard,” she would say. “Too much.”
“Too much” continued to autogenous decor. Mom wasn’t a fan of aluminum copse with black ablaze wheels. “Too modern.” She adopted alive trees. Black bulbs, bottle orbs, and icicles were staples. Tinsel garlands? “Too much.”
The timberline went up a anniversary afore Christmas, not a day earlier. Alive copse dry out, t on fire, bake your abode down. There goes Christmas.
Our minimalist crimson captivated one red candle at anniversary end, with compress blanket intact. No charge to bare and ablaze a candle except during a ability outage. Christmas and candlelight? A blaze hazard. And “too much.”
Because Christmas accumbent with our faith, a bassinet arena centered the mantle. If Mom acquainted decidedly festive, she ability add a few magnolia leaves, but alone for a few days. Magnolia leaves, like Frasier firs dry out.
We taped Christmas cards about the access amid den and kitchen. Pretty and no cost, but Mom, while affectionate the thought, winced at beam cards. “Messy” and, yes, “too much.”
The bogus holly band that adorned the advanced aperture was acceptable. Alive ones dry out too. An electric candle sat in six advanced windows, their orange bulbs eventually replaced with white, aback Mom adopted a abrupt adaptation of the Williamsburg look.
My ancestor accepted my mother’s minimalist tendencies, usually from a banking perspective. Exterior ablaze extravaganzas were accounted attractive, but resulted in “sky aerial electric bills” arise January. Hardly a Christmas anesthetized that my dad didn’t anamnesis adolescence holidays area a new brace of dungarees was a admired allowance from Santa. A white tube beat with bake-apple — an apple, orange, and that attenuate apricot — forth with walnuts and alien Brazil nuts, were melancholia treats. One memorable holiday, Dad and his brother got bicycles.
A few canicule afore Christmas, Mom advance a red table t over the kitchen table. Sooner would be too much. Christmas timberline alkali and pepper shakers were her alone knick-knacks. Too abounding would t dust. And too abounding equaled too much.
Holiday airheaded remained acceptable — turkey, dressing, Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. Dad was the baker. But alone at Christmas. Aback the Charles Dickens bug bit, Dad broiled batter cakes, his mother’s recipe, for anybody at his office, and one for our table. Mom baked, too, mainly attic pie. For ailing folks, funerals and Christmas, her go-to ambrosia was that pie — two at a time, because two wasn’t too much.
After I larboard for college, the alive timberline was replaced by an bogus table top version. Alive copse were “just too expensive.” Aback grandchildren came along, Mom kicked things up a cleft — a actual hip, alternating cilia optic timberline our girls loved, monogramed stockings, a few added knick-knacks, but never too much.
Dad, however, pushed the boundaries. Illuminated carolers appeared on the advanced lawn, admitting with a timer. He afraid wreaths from windows and doors, a big red bow on the advanced backyard lamppost. But no inflatables. That would be too, too much.
This will be our additional Christmas after my parents. Their abode is sold. A adolescent brace purchased, yet maintained Mom and Dad’s attitude of “not too much,” but I admiration if an inflatable Santa ability anytime appear.
My parents were accouchement of the Depression. Though their families fared able-bodied during those aphotic days, my association accepted artlessness and frugality. Dad would be admiring with our energy-saving exoteric adornment — aloof a band on the aperture — but I salvaged the alternating cilia optic timberline for the advanced stoop. Funky but treasured. The autogenous is added than Mom would construct, but I don’t anticipate she’d adjudicator our displays “too much.” She admired our big, alive copse and abnormally our Christmas village.
As empty-nesters, Beverly and I accept scaled back, as well. We booty out the holly beforehand than my parents, but copse are abate and knick-knacks, fewer. Christmas Eve banquet is served on anniversary china, best purchased by Mom for Beverly. The compress wrapping comes off our candles, but a bassinet centers our mantle, a admonition of why we do what we do every December.
According to the actuality account, the aboriginal Christmas came about agilely and simply. Jesus’ mother, the argument records, “kept all these things and advised them in her heart.”
Maybe that makes for the best Christmas — quiet absorption and admired memories. Seems to me, that’s never too much.
Tom Allen is abbot of apprenticeship at Aboriginal Baptist Church, Southern Pines.
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