Over the weekend, I picked up my phone and tapped the Instagram app, as you do.
You could tell instantly that Thanksgiving was over. Pumpkins had disappeared from the photos. Pies were nowhere to be found. Leaves? Poof, gone.
Instead, it was evergreens and twinkle lights, as far as the tiny squares could scroll.
My guts twisted a little, because we haven’t hung up our lights yet. We haven’t pulled out our stockings. We haven’t baked cookies or piled Christmas books all over the hearth.
We spent the weekend assembling bunk beds and bookshelves, not assembling a tree. (We just moved.)
I KNOW! I thought. Let’s forget about putting the house in order. We can go straight to making it merry! Who needs to unpack the rest of the kitchen? We can decorate the moving boxes! FESTIVE.
But then I remembered that I don’t have to do everything to make Christmas more Christmassy.
And I don’t have to do everything at the same moment that Instagram does.
I might even need to do less than usual, simpler than usual, calmer than usual, because that’s where we are this year. (Maybe you’re there, too.)
So I asked everyone who lives at my house: What’s most important to you, about how we celebrate Christmas?
That was the wrong question.
The kids hear “most important” as “list everything you can think of so we don’t leave anything out.” Everything is important!
Everything is fun, everything is twinkly, everything is magical. Who wants to give any of that up? Who wants to skip anything? It’s fraught.
Or, in Sadie’s words: “It’s too hard to pick!” I know what she means. It’s not easy. Also, she’s only seven.
I came up with a different question.
What do you remember about Christmas?
The things you remember (well, the GOOD things, anyway) from years past: start there.
My kids remember things like having a jar of Christmas candy on the kitchen counter, and sneaky-crafting to secretly make gifts for each other, and driving around our neighborhood in pajamas to see the lights on the houses, and sipping tea during advent readings.
Not the most obvious list, maybe, but one I can work with.
You don’t have to have the Christmas you see on Instagram. You don’t have to be more or do more or buy more to make it more meaningful. Christmas is already meaningful, all on its own.
You, as you are, today, in this season: you are enough. The way that you celebrate: enough. The way that you decorate: enough.
It’s okay to do it differently than the people around you. It’s okay to do it on your own timetable. It’s okay to leave the lights up longer than you meant to. (Just planning ahead, here.)
What do you remember about Christmas from years gone by?
What do you want to remember about this year?
Do that, and let everything else live on Instagram or Pinterest or in the neighbor’s brightly-lit front window.
Thank you to all the Instagrammers for doing all those other things (ice skating! cocoa and snow! cookie exchanges! elf on a ledge — don’t jump, elf!), so we can enjoy the photos of them without having to do them ourselves. They’re very pretty.
Now. Let’s go make our own memories.