It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Right? Sure, I love baking all the fun goodies, reading Christmasy books and watching the classic tales with heartwarming endings. But, this year feels different. My Christmas Spirit is changing.
When we put up our tree last month, I opted not to use all the sentimental ornaments of years past and memories hanging from branches. Instead, I hung simple but colorful ball-shaped ornaments that sparkle and shimmer against the warm white lights. I trimmed the tree within an hour without listening to my normal Christmas tunes. Those peppy CDs haven’t even been played yet. Classical instrumental and symphonic melodies tickled my ears for the trimming.
Maybe I went the easy route because I was still exhausted from hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my immediate family. At least I kept our family tradition of putting the tree up the Sunday after Thanksgiving. And I continue to top the tree with a 50-cent Star with Angel that my mother bought at Kmart many decades ago.
Recently, I began reading A Jane Austen Christmas: Regency Christmas Traditions by Maria Grace. I was surprised to read how different the Regency Christmas celebrations were to the Victorian traditions that have continued to present day. The food traditions (plum pudding, anyone?) I find most interesting, but the difference in how commercialized we are now compared to then is astonishing – and a bit shameful, I must confess.
Christmas has become big business over the years. It is one of the two days each year that is supposedly about Jesus. And if you know the Bible at all, you know how He handled folks turning churches into a business.
I’m rather fond of how Georgians celebrated Christmas. It’s quite simple and not convoluted with the Christmas rush to buy, buy, buy and endless activities that I’ve grown up knowing. Their traditions leaned toward a living Christmas, preparing meals and gifts for the poor who came calling along with the working class carolers. Although I can hold a note or two, I doubt my vocal chords would warrant compensation of any kind!
To learn that Jane Austen would have only decorated on Christmas Eve then burned all the greenery at Epiphany was news to me. I’ve only known one family, a very Italian and Catholic family, who put up a tree on Christmas Eve. It was shocking then and all that effort for a short amount of time confounds me yet. In fact, I’d be surprised if any trees would be available the night before Christmas unless they resembled a Charlie Brown species.
Also, there were no elaborate displays of presents under the tree to be exchanged during Jane’s time. Instead, small often homemade gifts were exchanged. This concept fits into our lives quite nicely. With elderly parents who pretty much have everything and tight budgets across the rest of the family, I rather applaud that idea. Exchanging a small and meaningful gift or present to be heartily consumed would merrily replace varying sizes and shapes of ornately wrapped gifts.
The Georgian Christmas centered around parties and family gatherings which sounds heavenly. Aside from visiting immediate family, I’d much rather spend the day at home with my husband and dogs, reflecting on the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Of course, attending candlelight Christmas Eve services at my church hold a special place in my heart. No gift giving necessary. When the greatest gift of all time lives within your heart, not much else can compare.
If my husband weren’t so attached to hanging lights all inside the house and outside a la’ Clark Griswold, I’d insist we celebrate Christmas more like the Regency era. In fact, I would have loved to have spent one Christmas with Jane Austen just to see how much meaning she put into the day.
Plus, Jane and other Regency folks celebrated other traditions extending well into the new year. Growing up, taking down all the Christmas decor would happen on New Year’s Day. For the past several years, I’ve extended that time until Epiphany or Twelfth Night on January 6th.
If you could pick an author to celebrate the Christmas season with, who would it be?