Each year for Christmas, my mother has sewn a Christmas dress for my sister and me. I've loved them, and wear the ones that still fit often. So, this year, when I found out she had decided not to make a dress for various and understandable reasons, I actually cried a little. It's tradition, and one I was going to miss.
My family celebrates the 12 Days of Christmas. We have a set of nesting cans we stack on top of each other, so they get bigger each day, and each day we sang whichever verse of the Twelve Days of Christmas we were on and "opened" the corresponding can. They're often little things - jewelry, bookmarks, cute notepads, etc. If we're away from home, Mom sends us the gifts for the days we'll be missing in individual envelopes and we all open them together on the phone. So, this year, when I found out that she was running so far behind in the Christmas planning that she hadn't sent them out in time and would just be holding onto them until my sister and I each get home and my brother would just be telling us what they were each day, I cried a little again.
What I'm sad about is not that I'm not getting all these presents, it's that our traditions, some of my favorites, are changing, and I was unprepared for that. For me, I'm not 100% feeling the Christmas spirit until I spend time with family, and since I don't get home until a day or two before the holiday, I spend quite a bit of December wishing I was already there. Doing the 12 Days of Christmas together alleviates that a little as I know that for a few minutes each day we're spending time together. In our discussion about the Christmas dresses, Mom mentioned that her mom stopped making dresses eventually too, but it was then I remembered that my mom was married by the time she was my age, which didn't really help matters.
It was as I was pondering the change in our 12 Days that I finally realized what the real problem was - I have no idea how to celebrate Christmas when it's just me. This is my fourth Christmas I've had to start celebrating long before I see my family, and I shouldn't have to wait until that time to really get into the Christmas spirit. It's not that I'm a Scrooge about the whole thing before Christmas Eve, just that I don't really believe it's holiday time until it's almost over. I sing Christmas songs from October on (thank you, Mormon Choir). I don't see my family. I don't have enough decorations to completely transform my apartment like my mom does with our house. And I haven't done what most other adults have seemed to - that you take the traditions and meanings of Christmas you learned as a child and incorporate them into your own family's as you see fit. My "family" is just me right now, so I need to decide what it is that I can do, on my own, to make it really seem like Christmas.
I tried a tradition of getting a new nativity set every year, five Christmases ago, but in those five Christmases, I've only acquired two. I do have a tree and a small handful of other decorations, but even in my tiny home, they don't seem to make much of a dent.
Then I remembered another 12 Days of Christmas tradition. Each day, we'd burn a section of a taper candle and read a scripture prophesying of the birth of Christ, but from the Book of Mormon.
I can do that.
On Saturday, I visited the Dollar Tree, picked up a taper and the only holder they had, plus a few more Christmas decorations, and asked my mom to email me that list of scriptures. My kitchen looks downright festive now, and I started reading the scripture chain last night.
I already feel more Christmas-y, and I'm glad for that. Here's that scripture list, in case you're interested in joining me.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol, another personal tradition I realized I've had for three years running now.