Every year as I unpack our boxes of Christmas ornaments and my family get set to turn our house from regular home to festive palace, I pluck out the ornament that encapsulates the true meaning of Christmas for me. It’s not a beauty and it certainly doesn’t sparkle. In fact, you could easily mistake it for a bit of litter but it means the most to me.
It is a little orange cellophane bell hanging off a paper clip. However, it is a little bell that was made by my Grandmother in the ‘40s to fill her home on the first Christmas she and my Grandfather were married. They were young and newlyweds, the war had only recently ended and they were at the start of a life together that would bring two children, three granddaughters, four great grandsons and last over 60 years. They didn’t have much that Christmas but they had love and they had hope and the tree she filled that year with homemade cellophane bells showed pure joy.
Every year through their life together that bell hung on the tree and when my Grandmother passed away I inherited all the Christmas boxes full of a lifetime of Christmas. Nestled in there was the one last bell. I hang it on my tree every year. It reminds me of my much-missed Grandparents, it reminds me that you can have little in your life but you can still have beauty and it is now part of my life that I share with my family.
For me this little treasure is the true spirit of Christmas because Christmas isn’t a “Trend”; it’s an amazing season to share time and love with those who fill your heart. Decorating the tree together as a family while “Carol of the Bells” plays. Gathering around the dining room table with many generations to share the best feast ever, even if it does include Brussels sprouts. Fighting over who gets to put the last jigsaw piece in place. And wearing a paper hat at a jaunty angle in celebration even though you know you look like an idiot.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that Christmas should be a joy not a stressful project that leads to months if not years of debt. Over the months leading up to Christmas we are inundated with perfect images of decorated homes, wrapped gifts and tables styled with napkins adorned with just the right accessory. We talk colour schemes for this year’s festive season and purchase the gifts that will tell our children that they are loved to the moon and back again. We can become overwhelmed with the pressure to deliver the perfect Christmas for everyone. That little bell tells me that the perfect Christmas is something different.
The true spirit of Christmas that fills your home comes from the heart; it is always there and it is always perfect. Now, have another glass of sherry and know everything will be great even if the roast potatoes are burnt and your chairs don’t match.
I will leave you with the wise words of Dr Seuss from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas:
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!