I’m the type of person who would never turn down an item of clothing full of sparkles. Especially during the holidays.
Indeed, I’m a sucker for glittery ballet flats. So nobody would ever accuse me of having a particularly refined taste. But there’s something about the holiday season that magnifies that kernel of kid-like whimsy by magnitudes.
The result has been over a decade of collected holiday decor that lacks any sort of theme or organization—just a hodgepodge of dollar store diddies and Walmart after-season sales.
There’s a big knit basket full of stuffed polar bears, reindeer, and a Mickey Mouse Santa Claus I used to snuggle up to on Christmas Eve long past. There’s cheap garland spiraling up the staircase, figurines well past their prime, and pint-sized colored trees in each child’s room.
We’ve owned several large trees by now, but they’re always fake and always a hodgepodge of ornaments from all over: the places we’ve traveled together, preschool crafts from our kids, preschool crafts from when we were kids, and a truly ridiculous amount of Barbies and Crayola collectibles from my childhood. The tree topper has vacillated between several different stars, a large angel, and now a small but cheerful Santa. There’s fake snow, window clings, and colored lights.
It’s an absolute mess, and I love it.
Even now, with an OCONUS move that left most of our decorations in storage half a world away, I find myself missing those mismatched ornaments.
Of course, I also feel pangs of jealousy when I see the alternative: those photos of friends with gorgeous soft-lit hearths and beautiful baubles dangling from enormous trees. I stare down their handmade burlap Christmas bows and find myself making a list of supplies. Sometimes I follow through in adding some tasteful pieces to our collection.
But so long as our kids are little, the overall ambiance will scream fun and loud and silly and magical. It will say in ways that I never could, this is all for you.
Because, truly, it is.
Thinking back on my own childhood memories, including a belief in Santa that definitely lasted longer than my peers, fills me with so much joy and warmth that I would do anything to pass it on to my kids. And while I don’t mean to insinuate decorations are the only way to make that happen, it would be silly to deny their importance.
Unpacking the Christmas boxes was almost as much fun as opening presents. My siblings and I would play with each item until finally being coaxed to turn it over for “official” placement. Even then, the playtime continued all season long.
There was a cloth elf with her own wooden sleigh we pulled around the kitchen table. Ornament favorites included porcelain Disney characters (a few of which miraculously still exist!) and those aforementioned Barbies, which were somehow way cooler than the fully functional ones in my bedroom. There was also a battery operated reindeer whose nose lit up and a huge stuffed moose with a red-knit sweater.
Each of these was like an old friend that came to visit each year. And though I now appreciate the yearning my mom must’ve felt to upgrade, I am forever indebted to her for indulging us as long as she did.
Now some may say that you can have it all. “Decorate multiple trees!” they’ll suggest. Or, “use your dining room for refined decor.”
These people have clearly never lived in military housing or had to pack up all their earthly belongings every couple of years. Some stuff will just have to wait until retirement, my friends.
With all that in mind, that Pinterest-worthy, buffalo-plaid, or winter white themes will sit on the backburner until both the kids and our living conditions mature. But you won’t find me crying into my eggnog about it. I’m happy to embrace the magic wherever I can find it. And if that looks tacky from the outside, so be it.