It’s Christmas Eve, and it’s snowing. We live in the Pacific Northwest; our house is about 40 feet above sea level. It doesn’t snow here often. Snow throws everything into chaos.

My kids are baking cookies for their grandma, who may or may not come for Christmas tomorrow, depending on the roads. The last gifts have been wrapped, but the wrapping paper and tape and scissors and tags haven’t been put away. We don’t know who will be where tomorrow, or when, because of the snow.

There was a time when that might have been a disaster. But this year, it’s okay. My
kids are more flexible than they used to be. And my husband and I are holding our plans lightly. We’re enjoying the sounds of our kids in the kitchen. We’re enjoying Christmas carols. We’re enjoying our Christmas tree.

Our Christmas tree

We always have a real tree, and we like to put it up as close to Christmas as we can. That’s not because we’re too pious to decorate during Advent. I put out my St. Nicholas collection and my Nativity set early in Advent. But we want to keep our tree up until Theophany. And if you have a real tree, that means you have to be patient. You have to wait.

And so we wait.

Last year, we waited too long. I suppose it was because the Nativity was on a Sunday. But the Sunday before the Nativity, all of the tree farms were closed for the season, and all of the tree lots had disappeared. We ended up with a real Charlie Brown sort of tree – a Norfolk pine from the grocery store. We put it on a small table so you could see it, and piled our presents on the hearth instead of under the tree.

This year’s tree

This year, we checked the websites of all the tree farms, and found one not too terribly far away that would still be open on the 22nd. But the 22nd was cold and raining. Not my favorite weather for picking out a tree. And the local hardware store had good-sized trees on clearance. We decided to see if any of them were reasonably fresh.

And some of them were. So we came home with a lovely Douglas Fir. And yesterday, we decorated it.

We’ve got a wonderful collection of ornaments. Some we bought when we were on vacation. Some were gifts from people who are dear to us. Some are gifts from us to our children who still live at home. (We give each child a Christmas ornament every year. I started that when my oldest was a baby, so he’d have a collection of ornaments for his first Christmas on his own.)

The ornaments are made of felt, cardboard, pipe cleaners, wood, porcelain, sterling silver, brass. Images of the Nativity, of the Theotokos with her Babe, of shepherds and sheep, snowmen, Santas, and Snoopy, snowflakes and stars. Handmade by children. Handmade by talented adults. Beautiful and tacky, side by side, on the same branch. I know there are people who regret the mish-mash of the sacred with the secular, the pious with the profane. But I love it.

Think about that very first Christmas: the Word of God, the King of Kings, in a feed trough in a stable. A young mother married to an old man. Angels. Astrologers. Madeleine L’Engle called the Incarnation the Glorious Impossible. And somehow, to me, all the mess, the chaos, of this season seems meet and right.

Read More

The Case of the Disappearing Name Day: My patron saint is Joseph the Betrothed, so my name day is the Sunday after the Nativity. Except when it isn’t.

Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol: A Review: If you want a Christmas story for the grownups, this is it!

Spiders, Snowflakes, and Books: When I went to the St. Emmelia Homeschool Conference, there was snow!

Charlotte Riggle, author of Catherine's Pascha and The Saint Nicholas Day Snow
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