By Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher, Clarion Herald
“It’s that time of year again.” Accompanying the text from my dad were pictures of the house decorated for Christmas. Snowy landscapes, creche with nativity scene, garlanded windows and beautifully decorated trees.
It’s our family tradition. For everyone else, Black Friday means chaos and shopping; for us, it means Christmas preparation.
Except I haven’t decorated yet. But I will – soon.
We’ve made plans to pick out our tree, to clean the house, to train the new puppy that the tree is not a chew toy, despite its woody nature.
As my husband and I were folding laundry, he asked me whether I thought we might get new towels for Christmas.
When I told him I put it on the list, he turned to me with a deadpanned look: “I guess you know you’re an adult when you want towels for Christmas.”
And perhaps that’s the point. As an adult, of course, Christmas isn’t nearly as fun as when we were children – that is, until you have kids. Instead, it serves as a means of nostalgia. We want to relive the magic that we once had, even as we’re occupied by the daily stresses and anxieties of our lives.
In a viral web story, psychologists have even studied the science behind decorating early, indicating that those who put up their lights and festive décor early are, on the whole, happier than their counterparts who wait until the days just before the holiday.
Of course, we already knew that – doesn’t The Grinch teach us about the happiness of the Whos in Whoville?
Decorating can also feed into the sense of nostalgia, increasing those neurological pathways for pleasure.
As we decorate, we feel connected to past traditions and memories.
As we generate our own traditions, we rely on the ones we’ve experienced in the past and we retell those stories.
Maybe we recall those loved ones who have passed, and we feel just a bit more connected to them in that moment.
I remember my mom pointing out all the ceramic Christmas decorations and making a point of reminding us that were created by our grandmother, MawMaw Bobby.
They had a special meaning for her, and it was something she remembered each time the nativity set and other pieces came out of the box.
Each Christmas box, then, holds different memories – it’s one of the seasons that has the ability to generate so many moments that bring people together.
It’s those memories that make the Christmas season so special.
Each year, my husband and I have a mini argument over how to decorate the tree. He prefers the eclectic ornaments passed down from both of our families. There are ornaments collected from the Hallmark store, handmade ornaments, ornaments gifted over the years by friends. And they all have individual memories.
I prefer the ornament sets: a tree decorated uniformly in a specific color family, with ribbon and an angel on top.
Our compromise is to alternate the years, though, technically this year is meant to be his.
But with a puppy, it’ll be a challenge to keep any ornaments on the tree. So, instead of the possibility of damaging childhood ornaments, we’ll opt for Target ornaments.
New traditions will be made.
Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.