My House is Not a Store Front (or 5 Things Christmas is Really About)

I wanted a marshmallow world. As a kid I watched the American movies that always featured some variation of the white colonial and its black shutters. It was decorated to perfection. The stores were magical and had everything a kid could possibly want. When I grew up, I was convinced that I too could create this wonder and magic. I have fallen short every year.

My DIY’s either fail miserably (bucket o’ tree trimmings on my front porch – because as a kid who grew up in the country, I refuse to give Loblaws $50 for the same thing) or take more time than I am willing to dedicate (stringing popcorn takes fooorever). I am always disappointed, annoyed and angry that everything is not just so or as I imagined it to be possible.

And then this year, I finally realized that my house is not a store front, I do not live on a movie set, and my self- imposed expectations were never the point. For anyone wondering, I am ok with the fact that it took me almost twenty years of adulthood to reach this ever so obvious conclusion. Listed below are the five things that, for me, are where the wonder and magic actually live:


Each year our small community held a Christmas Bazaar in the hall at the back of the church parking lot. Most of the wares for sale were handmade items and reasonably priced for a nine-year-old. One year my sister and I managed to get our hands on a few coins, keeping in mind coins never went misplaced in our house so this in and of itself was already magical. We chose to buy some ornaments for our Mom. One was a little worm made of googly eyes and small blue pom-poms. Each year that little worm sat on a branch of our tree. Pulling out the variety of ornaments from musty boxes was my favourite part. Most, if not all of them, had a story. That worm is a gift we continue talk about. It was carefully thought out by children, fit within their budget and was insanely special despite its weirdness.

Glittery Décor that makes a kid say “ooh!”

We never seasonally decorated our home. My mother’s aunts would have guffawed themselves silly if they saw some of the content that exists on mommy and décor blogs. “God already does a fairly decent job, and I have enough to do” they’d have stated incredulously. So Christmas was big. Damp, torn and worn boxes were pulled out from under the basement stairs. Paper ornaments were taped, tacked and secured to the ceilings and walls. My mom painted the picture window in the living room, backwards, so it looked correct from the outside. MOM PAINTED THE WINDOW! This was special.

100-year-old beds

Jodi and Vanessa sharing a bed and living to tell the tale

My daughter sleeps in a bed that belonged to her great-grandfather. It is painted a brilliant, bright yellow and is heavy as all hell. Most nights she shares this bed with her sister so they each have someone to snuggle in the middle of the night. Each Christmas Eve my sister and I would share one of our twin beds. We’d laugh and giggle, sleep in spurts and spats, and try to listen for Santa. When we got too big, we still slept in the same room. I was twenty-seven and newly engaged the last time I did this. They are the memories of Christmas I treasure the most and miss with a physical heart ache each year. This is where the magic of Christmas truly exists. Our girls are creating this for themselves in a hundred-year-old bed.

An Overheated House and Fancy Perfume

Christmas Eve was spent in my grandfather’s over heated house with a very large blended family. Boyfriends were ushered in and out to pass an unspoken test. It was not for the faint of heart. Every year there was grace before anyone could even think about putting a mash potato to their lips or on the cheek of the person sitting across the table. The grace, delivered by my grandfather, always centered on gratitude.

The next morning my mother, sister and I would rush to my grandmother’s house at six am. Every damn year she received a gift box set of perfume from my step-grandfather. My grandmother was allergic to perfume. We rushed so we could watch her open said box of perfume. Her annoyance made us gleeful. She would then make a terrible cup of tea, we would eat shortbread, talk and laugh, help her get things ready for dinner later that day and our Mom would enjoy her newly acquired perfume.

Boney M and Kenny & Dolly

Dolly_KennyI overheard a conversation between my daughters the other night and they reminded me of why we mark this day on our calendar. In my fretting, list making frenzy, I had buried this information under the glitter. We are being asked to celebrate love and kindness. Our planet was once populated by a man full of love who delivered some pretty important messages for humanity. He delivered faith. When Boney M sings of Mary’s Boy Child, sing it out loud, clap, be joyful. When Dolly and Kenny sing about Santa, they are singing about faith in kindness.

Celebrate, clap, be joyful.


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