As the holiday season arrives, I push myself every year to slow down a bit and do a better job of not being caught up in the fray. It’s a struggle – as a mom, wife, downtown resident and employee I want to do it all and do it all well. That doesn’t mean sheer perfection: I chafe at the thought of churning out casseroles and an over-decorated home and yard.
However, it does mean that I want to find ample time to bake treats for the neighbors and gleefully deliver them with my daughter, sharing her delight as she rings the doorbell and dashes away. It means that I want our home to look and feel cozy for the holidays – the smells, warmth and touches that make it a special place that permeates our collective memory. Reality dictates, of course, that it just won’t happen… and once again there will be myriad days when a tub of fall decorations sits alongside Christmas mementos and everything is half done.
There is one thing, however, that we can count on doing right as a family, and it lends such depth to the holiday season that I had to hurry and share it, because each year other families tell me they want to incorporate it. Best of all, it’s simple and free.
Each year, we pick a night pretty close to Christmas (so our neighbors have had time to do their best work) and designate it Family Light Night. I like the Friday night when school has dismissed for the holiday break and there are no commitments the next day. We put on our coziest PJs, make homemade popcorn (if that seems overly stated, you haven’t tried my husband’s popcorn) and put hot cocoa and wassail in thermoses. We pile in the car with blankets and turn on the holiday tunes, and we set out to take in the lights.
Sometimes we pick a particular neighborhood, and sometimes we head out toward the lake or our own downtown district. Some homes cause us to gasp at their garishness, and others strike the simplistic note just right. Regardless of what we think and the energy consumed, it strikes me that the act of hanging lights is something that still brings joy to the holiday season for many adults, and I like that.
What happens on our family light night is one of the most magical parts of Christmas for me: kids giggling and wiggling in the backseat, time in a confined space as a family, real conversations with my husband. Memories come up of holidays past, and I think it must be the closest thing there is to visions of sugarplums. I’ve never seen a sugared plum, but to me it epitomizes everything that is happy, good and right in this world as it dances in the mind’s eye. And of all the traditions, we can certainly use more of that.
Here’s to a holiday that includes slowing down and partaking of the good things with those you love.