Celebrating in Small Ways

When I was growing up December 13 was an important landmark during the Christmas holidays. It was the day when caroling began. Each year our family would pick a few friends or neighbors who we thought were having a particularly difficult holiday. Sometimes it was because their money was tight, sometimes they’d just experienced a death, sometimes they were facing an upcoming death, sometimes they struggled in other ways, sometimes we just wanted to express gratitude to a person. We picked two or three households then we would go and sing to them each night for twelve nights before Christmas. Each singing featured one of the verses from the song Twelve Days of Christmas only with our own words to match the small gift that we gave to them. I loved that tradition. I loved the singing. I loved the look on their faces when they realized we really were going to show up on their porch every single night. I loved the feeling that we were bringing joy to someone in a difficult season.

For various reasons this tradition did not work well in the family that I helped create when I got married. I tried it one year and discovered I do not have the gift for it that my mother has. (I wrote about it here.) It certainly isn’t something I would be willing to put into our lives now. I simply don’t have the emotional energy necessary to sustain that big production. But I would like to do something small that feels like giving. So I thought I might give a photo and a story about it for each of the next twelve days. They’ll mostly Christmas things, because that is what fills my house with beauty right now. Sometimes the stories will be small if I’m having a very full day.

I’ll begin with my advent candle. I wrote about it a little more than a week ago when I described what I hoped to do as an advent practice. Unfortunately I haven’t sustained the advent effort on a daily basis, but I still burn the candle and think careful thoughts when I find the time. Candles in December make me happy. This year’s candle is more decorated than most. I usually just paint numbers, but my sister-in-law offered this up as a Thanksgiving project. So I painted while visiting with people I love. In only twelve days the candle will burn down to a stub. Between now and then, I’ll watch it shine bright.