I Still Believe…

Giving Thanks… in Thanksgiving.

Maybe it’s because I grew up with a mother who adored Fall.

Each September our little world would erupt in a dizzying cloud of red and orange, brown and yellow.  Corn stalks would be bundled and placed strategically throughout our property.  Paired with home-grown gourds.  Giant pumpkins.  And the occasional homemade scarecrow.  Some people decorate at Christmas with tinsel and boughs.  In the Fall, our house was strewn with fake leaves.  Bunches of wheat.  Ears of Indian Corn tied with a ribbon.  Bunnies dressed in Thanksgiving.  Cornucopias.  Pilgrims.  Scarecrows.  Pumpkins.  Orange and brown pillows.  Fluffy throw blankets.  The fireplace would be cleaned out and warmed up for those first chilly fall days, only after you moved three pots of mums off the top of it.

I grew up surrounded by Fall.  And Thanksgiving.

It never once occurred to us to decorate for Christmas before November was over.  As long as that large, wooden calendar didn’t read “December” our house was full of Fall and Thankfulness.

Which I guess is why it’s so strange to me every year when everyone I know (really… EVERYONE I KNOW) has already decorated for Christmas.  In-laws.  Friends.  Acquaintances.  Facebook makes it easy now for me to see how strange my family was (and still is).  Perhaps most people decorated for Christmas early when I was growing up, too.  I just didn’t have social media to make me feel so alone.

I blame our Christmas tree.

You see, in a Kansas November, the temps can drop into the single digits if they really want to.  I spent many Fall Saturdays in the woods around our town with my dad, Grandpa & cousins- chopping down trees, splitting wood, burning brush and preparing for the bite of winter to strike.  And along with the cold came the dry, brittle air.  Cracking skin.  Nosebleeds.  Chapped faces.

A Kansas winter is a dry, desolate world of crunchy grass.  Yards and fields and trees lose their color to the bitter winds.  And one of the main reasons you want Christmas to hurry is so you can put up some color and pray for snow!

Cutting down the treeAll of that to say, we have never had a fake Christmas tree in my life.  Every year we would take our little family and drive an hour away to the perfect little Christmas tree farm to pick out the perfect tree.  Symmetrical.  Full.  Tall enough to fill our A-frame living room that my dad and Grandpa built together.  There was no set date on this and thus there was no set date on when Christmas entered our home.

It was not December 1st or the Friday after Thanksgiving.  No… the day we got the tree was the day we decorated for Christmas.

It was the day we brought 15 Xerox boxes up from the basement, all meticulously labeled with their contents (by my mother, of course).  And out would come the tinsel and the lights and the snowmen.  The Nativity.  The Santa Clauses.  And all the cherished ornaments.  Out would come the Christmas records, and I do mean records.  And our family would magically (well, maybe not magically) spend the entire evening dancing to Dolly Parton, The Beach Boys, and the Carpenters as they caroled in the Christmas Season.

I blame the Christmas tree for our late start because in the fire-sapped atmosphere of our cozy winter home a fresh Christmas tree turned dry and brittle in a matter of days.  No matter how many contraptions we could come up with to water the thing.  The needles hurt by the first week.  And the tips turned brown by the second.

But we couldn’t really decorate for Christmas until the tree was up.

So until then, it was Fall.  The browner, the better.

Which is probably why today, even with a nice fake Christmas tree tucked away in our closet with all the fixins’ I absolutely refuse to get out our Christmas decorations until Thanksgiving is over.  While I love Christmas and everything that comes with it, I also love Thanksgiving.  I was trained to appreciate Fall and the season of change and thankfulness for the harvest.  It is important to me to keep this week sacred.  To not hurry on ahead.  To not put away the symbols of thankfulness just yet.  Because you cannot really cherish a season of giving gifts until you have taken adequate time to reflect on how much you have truly been given.

Many loves of my life have their trees up and their snowmen on the lawn.  It seems like almost everyone around here, actually.  And our Thanksgiving will be celebrated around a table adorned with pinecones, poinsettias and holly.  Not acorns and squash like my childhood.  And that’s ok.

The Pumpkin PatchBut for me and my household, we will not put out our Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving.  We will not hurry the hustle and bustle of Christmas and so sacrifice a season of change, transition, and remembrance for all of the blessings we have received throughout the year.

We won’t do it.

Even though Santa is already at the mall.  Christmas music is already playing in the grocery store.  And Black Friday starts on Monday.

We will be thankful first.

********************

When do you welcome Christmas into your home?

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