Need a Little Christmas All Yearlong

Neighbors have been eating lunch together at my house weekly for the past couple of years. Some have come and gone throughout those years, but a faithful few have become Thursday regulars at the Friendship House. And despite not seeing each other much elsewhere, they have become friends. Sharing food together regularly around a table tends to make friends of even the most unlikely. This past week we got together for the last lunch of the year, as we will not be meeting on Christmas or New Year’s Day. There wasn’t anything special about the meal: my roast beef and mashed potatoes, Joyce’s homemade bread and fancy cake, Audrey’s delicious dessert of the week, Cindy’s pigs in blankets; all placed on the kitchen counter buffet line. It was as crowded as normal at the rickety table that lurches when you lean in too excitedly. But something was different. More than the usual kind words were in the air. More than the usual hugs were given as we came and went. Cards and small gifts and other expressions of love were exchanged. A more tender spirit was noticeable. Christmas was upon us.

The Friendship House is a pretty open house most days, but we decided to have an official Open House for the Christmas season. During this event’s extra decking of the halls, we added a splash or two of festive here and there -- including the kitchen sink. As I looked at the brightly colored baubles newly dangling above it, I smiled brightly. “These are going to stay after Christmas, to be sure,” I said. “And I don’t care what anyone thinks. They make me happy.”

Many years ago, when I worked in the Collection Division at the Internal Revenue Service, much fun was made of the folks who left their outdoor holiday lights up year-round. The old-timers insisted there was a direct correlation between those delinquent Christmas decorators and our delinquent collection “clients,” whom we ironically referred to as taxpayers. Even then I was actually a fan of the extended holiday happiness those lights lend to one’s house. And considering the hassle of hanging lights, a one-time approach seems brilliant.

I love lights, and every year I wonder why we don’t just leave them up all year round. Perhaps they would lose their appeal after a while, and I suppose the elevated electric bill would be prohibitive, but I think I would like it. I remember when I began celebrating the Advent season with my young family, and one author suggested leaving out one of your Christmas decorations all year long as a reminder of the Christmas story and to help keep alive the Christmas spirit throughout the coming year. We did this several years, and I liked the new practice, except for the puzzled stares at the seemingly neglected nativity scene on the counter from guests at our 4th of July picnics. These left-behind reminders often caught me by surprise and ignited a spark of joy in my heart.

We seem capable only of short bursts of this Christmas spirit; this extra decking of our halls, that extends even to the ordinary kitchen sink, or the ordinary Thursday potluck. Why don’t we leave the baubles bobbling and the lights twinkling? Are we worried they will lose their luster if we keep them all year long? Are we afraid we can’t afford to expend the energy to sustain the twinkling?

I think we could if we drew that energy from one another.

And I think I would like it.