Christmas busyness

Published 10:26 am Saturday, December 7, 2019

Christmas is a hectic, crazy time. Even if you don’t have something planned each evening, there are haunting thoughts that remind you of all you need to accomplish before the big day.

There are unspoken rules that I have difficulty keeping up with. The expectations of festive statements are coming earlier and get bigger and more complicated than in years past.

Stores set up the Christmas displays the day after Halloween. We have a radio station in Cincinnati that begins playing Christmas music exclusively on Nov. 1.

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My neighbors’ yards are decorated with beautiful lighting and embellishments by Thanksgiving Day.

I am different. I put my decorations up in stages. This is not because I have an enormous amount of ornaments but more so because I am too tired at the end of the day to have my home become the Good Housekeeping picture perfect display.

As I write this, we are a week into December. Two days ago, I assembled the artificial tree in our front room. We have used this tree for more than 30 years. Some of the limbs have broken off and we have to work extra hard to spread out the remaining branches to cover the bald spots. I’m not against real trees or even buying a new fake tree, but this one has special meaning to our adult children, so we keep it.

Last night, I finally put the lights on the Christmas tree. We’ve started enjoying the tree, even though there is not one ornament on it yet.  If we have the room dark, except for the tree, the multicolored, tiny lights sparkle and you don’t even notice it’s not officially decorated yet.

Maybe this weekend I will pull out all the ornaments and make the tree formally complete. But that takes time, too. We have to look at each precious treasure and reminisce about when we first got them.

For instance, the cloth bows I made during our first year of marriage — these were made with remnants of cloth in different complementary colors, purchased at the discount section of Walmart.

There are “baby’s first Christmas” ornaments with pictures of my daughters at the tiniest stages of their lives. We have ornaments that were given to us as gifts by people who have a special place in our family’s heart. Then there are the ornaments our daughters made in Mini-School and through their elementary school days.

As a child, my mom wouldn’t put the Christmas tree up until Dec. 17. This is because, when she was heavily pregnant with my sister Linda, the last thing she did prior to delivery was decorate the tree.

The story goes that Mom got the “nesting” instinct and worked diligently to clean and prepare our home for Christmas. She knew that, once the new baby was born, she would have no time or energy.

The final task to check off her list was decorating the Christmas tree. However, she went into labor and, even though this was her fourth child and the pains were continuous, she did not go to the hospital until the tree was completed.

It all worked out. The house was clean, the tree decorated and the baby was actually born in the hospital.

Every year as a child, Mom told us this story. With this memory to begin the Christmas preparations, we’d move into other memories of Christmas’ past and she would tell us more stories of each ornament, place and time they were collected.

I don’t know what type of traditions you have or what memories you share during the holiday time. Decorations are fun and beautiful. We love to drive around different neighborhoods to enjoy the displays.

But I hope you will take more time to revisit sweet moments of Christmas’ past and enjoy the present Christmas with the people you care about. Please put more effort into nurturing these over making your home the envy of the neighborhood.

Nora Swango Stanger, a Lawrence County native and Appalachian outreach coordinator for Sinclair Community College, can be reached at