Christmas treeby Chris Jones

As a child, I loved decorating for Christmas. The day after Thanksgiving, I would beg my parents to go up into the attic to pull down the Christmas decorations. I’d then ask my dad when we could cut down a tree because in the 80s, everybody had real trees. We would venture into our wooded backyard to chop down a pine or drive to someone’s farm and cut down a tree there. With a tree in hand, my grandfather would bring the tree into the living room along with a 5-gallon bucket he would cover with wrapping paper and, after centering the tree in the bucket, pack with dirt. That’s how Christmas went in rural Virginia. We didn’t have stands or tree skirts. We made do with the objects at our disposal.

My grandmother and I and whoever else was available at home that day would decorate the tree. My grandfather would back out of the process at that point, retreating to the kitchen table for a cigarette and a snack, or out of sight all together. That was the extent of his Christmas spirit as I remember. I didn’t think much of it as a child, but as a working adult man with a family, I get it now.

My dad would often say, “Christmas is another day.” I always thought he was succumbing to his inner Ebenezer Scrooge, but not so much anymore. He worked hard to provide for all of us, plus his income took care of extended family members. As a father who has children and expenses, I see why December was difficult for him. It’s difficult for me most years. Feeling festive is hard when you have a tight budget and the demands of gift giving spell overtime to create more income to put smiles on faces. It can make Christmas into another day, and one you don’t receive well.

That said, I’m challenging my thinking this year. I will be intentional about enjoying the season. This means more Christmas music playing in my office, more holiday-themed movies streaming on my television, and accepting more party invitations. I’ll enjoy Christmastime this year with the same spirit 8-year-old me did and feel more privileged to give than burdened by it. It’s a special time of the year and Christmas is more than just another day.