"Keeping Christmas" has always been a joy.
I think because "keeping Christmas " did not mean shopping or packages or gifts.
It meant starting with opening the first window on an Advent calendar on December 1st. Actually we started before that tracing with our fingers where each numbered surprise was hiding. The anticipation each day was a wonderment to we children. Also a source of argument over who's turn it was to actually open the window and make the discovery of the images and message therin. I still have an advent calendar, Today's image is a colorful drawing of three people in the garb of the time and region looking "afar", the message from the book of Isaiah says. "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light".
In my youth, and in Mermaid's, the Christmas Miracle plays in school and churches kept us busy with learning the message, contributing to the message and making costumes or sets for the performances or for the Nativity.
Truly the first chords of Christmas music makes visions of Christmas dance in my head.
I have attempted over the years to construct gingerbread houses or churches but the truth is I am not a baker. I did for a few years make an effort to create beautiful painted Christmas cookies. Alas, they remained a vision in my head far different from the messy reality distributed to the residents of the duck pond down the street.
Keeping Christmas also meant getting in the car with cups of hot chocolate ,Christmas music playing, to drive around the neighborhoods to admire the Christmas decorations and lights, the nativities set up on church lawns with lights shining on them. I still do this with the heater on and the windows open no matter how cold it is.
My most favorite part of Christmas has always been "Decking the Halls". The first year Blowfish was courting me during a Christmas season he offered to "get the tree down for me". I found the offer confusing because I was pretty sure what I did every year was put a tree up, not down. As it turned out, Blowfish and family favored artificial trees which they kept stored in the attic, I was horrified.
He found my reaction befuddling asking this, "You still do that real tree thing?" To which I responded, " It's deck the halls with boughs of holly not plastic" To his credit, Blowfish willingly goes forth every year to fetch and trim and set up as many real trees as I want, usually three.
At the end of the season he willingly helps to undecorate them all, pack up the delicate treasures of my childhood and Mermaids, haul numerous boxes up the stairs to the attic and helps with the cleanup of the fallen needles left behind. If ever he wishes for plastic trees past he keeps it to himself.
I have found, over the years, the traditional elements of Christmas celebrations from my own youth, my mother's stories of her dreamed for Christmas celebrations and most especially the memories of all the Christmases of Mermaid's childhood are still the elements which most raise my awareness of God. I have been so blessed to live my life bracketed by my child and my mother. Both gifts beyond all measure. Every year, when we are home at the Pond, or away "keeping Christmas" in our hearts has always been the core of all our joy.
May you be so blessed.