To find holiday joy

Gabe and I are having a really hard time feeling festive this December. Typically, starting in September, I’m all geared up for the last  quarter of the year, jumping from my birthday to Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas and then tying it all up with New Year celebrations but this year, I lost steam somewhere along the way and now that December is here, I hardly care.

We’re not a religious family so Christmas is not about baby Jesus for us. Instead, it’s about finishing the year, celebrating the snow and cold and nature’s slumber. It’s about spending time with friends we don’t see often enough and with family whom we see all the time but with the added bonus of watching the kids open presents. It’s about spreading joy throughout a dark month. It’s a wonderful time, one we usually enjoy to the fullest.

But this year, we do not care.

It’s not just us; we’re hearing similar sentiments from all corners, Christian and non-Christian alike. Old and young, families and singletons. It seems there are large pockets of the seasonally disaffected everywhere we look.

Where did our holiday spirit go?

In an effort to bring it back, we’ve been watching our favorite holiday movies. So far, we’ve consumed “Elf“, “A Christmas Story“, Rankin & Bass’ “Jack Frost” (ok, my favorite, not Gabe’s; I love the box of dreams they pass around on Christmas day), and “Christmas Vacation.” And yet…nothing.

There are Christmas carols playing, it’s been snowy and cold, the cider is in its final, carmelized stages, but something is missing.

I made ice lights, lumin-ice-ias, if you will, the other night. They’re lovely, all glowing and twinkerly, casting brightness through slightly- melting ice.


Step One: Fill your desired plastic containers with water. Put water-filled containers in the freezing outdoors. Let sit until frozen.


Step Two: Bring frozen water containers inside. Place in sink. Upend container, run warm water over it, watch ice block fall out. If there’s not a bubble in the ice that you can break through, down where the container bottom was, drill a hole big enough in the bottom of the ice block using hot water from the sink. The bottom of the block is now the top and the former top is now the base.
Insert tea light. If it doesn’t fit like you want it to, do some more drilling with the hot water. If it all goes to hell, just refill the tub and put it back outside and try again tomorrow.


Step Three: After testing all your ice lights, put them outside in the snow. Or on the driveway. Or in trees if you can figure that out. Or on parked cars. Just put them somewhere that is easy to reach so you can light them again after they blow out.


Step Four: Light the candles. It’s best to do this when it is dark, as candlelight is more visible in the night, but really, it’s up to you. Light these puppies whenever you want. I’d imagine the fire danger is fairly low unless you’ve got these sitting precariously near open tanks of gasoline. The candle holder is made of ice which is really frozen water and we all know that water puts out fire. Unless it’s a grease fire in which case water doesn’t help at all.


Step Five: Admire your work and take pictures and then check the candles obsessively throughout the evening because you know the breeze keeps sneaking up and blowing them out. Relight as needed. Also, pay attention when taking pictures and don’t get distracted talking to the neighbor or else you’ll end up with images like this one.

I put lights up on the house the first weekend in December in an attempt to bring magic to the yard but the lights are the LED kind and they’re just so empty-looking, so dark, so uncolorful. Hollow. They make me sad with their lack of brightness and warmth. We put up the tree, too, and it’s got cute lights, but that’s as far as we got until the other night when we threw some ornaments on – only about half of them –  and called it good.

I was grateful, though, for the actual ornaments. I’ve got baubles that have come with me from childhood. Gabe has some from his last life, the one before the two of us. We have trinkets we’ve found together on our adventures – we try to buy an ornament every time we go somewhere. We have one from Thanksgiving in Estes Park in 2008, a happy and sad year. We have one from our Disney Cruise honeymoon in 2009 and one from our trip to the La Brea tar pits last year. There are many more; it’s fun to take them out and remember the places we’ve been and things we’ve done.

I have ornaments that have been given to me as gifts and even though I can’t remember anything else in my life, I remember who gave those little decorations to me. I have ornaments from my BFF’s sister who died; T gave friends and family her sister’s Christmas tree decorations so we could continue share the holidays with her. I have such good memories of Christmas Eves with T and her twin so I cherish those ornaments and look forward to seeing them every year. I inherited the handmade ribbon-and-bead ornaments one of my mom’s friends made for her back before I was born. As the 70’s passed, those gaudy, flashy, homemade things became ugly to everyone but me and my siblings. I still think they’re beautiful though I understand why my mom finds them hideous. It doesn’t help that they’ve lost their tassels and a lot of the pins and beads that held them together.


Ok, so the Snoopy ornament? It’s a Hallmark ornament, called Joe Coolest. I got it in an ornament exchange in 2006, I believe. It’s from Calina. I know all this because I remember it.
The Rolling Hills ornament is from our trip to Kansas to visit Noelle and her family for Thanksgiving in 2010. I know this because I have a whole album full of pictures of our trip there over on Facebook.
The popsicle stick Santa was a Christmas present from the Younger Niece. She made it in 2007. I know this because I wrote it on the back.
See how meaningful these are? They all have stories! It’s so wonderful!

Unpacking and hanging the ornaments was like being able to look into a festive, jolly house. I saw, smelled, remembered holiday joy. But I still don’t feel it. The magic is missing and I dont know why.

I’m going to go find it.

And when I do, I’ll love it more than usual because I have missed it. Off I go, on my quest to find my holiday bliss.


I’ll be back next year, folks, with new stories and crazy tales and, hopefully, we will have found the Spirit of Christmas!

Be well, Happy Holidays, and I wish you all a safe and perfect New Year.


Filed under My Dearly Beloveds

9 responses to “To find holiday joy

  1. simplyblake

    Aw, I know what you mean. I think the commercialization of the holidays has made me cynical. There is something that usually helps me get into the spirit, though–one of my all-time favorite movies, It’s a Wonderful Life. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

    Trimming the tree is a walk down memory lane for me, also. I blogged about it here: That fabric bell pictured on your “I am why I can’t have nice things” post? I have one just like it! And a fabric candy cane, too. 🙂

    Here’s to hoping you find some holiday spirit, doll. The best gifts are moments shared, kind words exchanged, and simple deeds done in the spirit of love. XO

    • Did you make your fabric bell and candy cane ornaments? Or was it a sibling’s work? Or daughter’s?
      It’s always so fun to hold the ornaments and be washed over with the memories of moments past. I love that feeling so much.

      I think I’ll find some holiday spirit, somehow. I’m trying hard, at least. And thank you – for the well-wishing, for stopping by and commenting, and for being my internet counter-stalker. 😀

      • simplyblake

        I didn’t make the fabric bell and candy cane. I think my mom did. Another special thing I didn’t note in my blog post is that my paternal grandmother put a new ornament on her tree for me from my first Christmas through my last Christmas as a college student. Then she gave all of those ornaments to me to have for my first Christmas tree.

        I hope you’re feeling the holiday spirit now, my dear! Peace and goodwill to you and yours. <3, Your internet counter-stalker 😉

  2. If you find it, will you let me know where it’s been hiding?
    My mother’s been been really wanting to make this Christmas a good one, because she thinks she’s going to die in February and it will be her last, and even if it isn’t I’ll be abroad for at least next Christmas. She wants it to be special. And her relatives (my uncle, my cousin) are not cooperating, and she’s very sad about everything. Both of us can’t seem to find the energy to get enthused about what might be our last Christmas together.

    You lumin-ice-ias are lovely, though. And so are your ornaments, darling – I love that you know each one’s story. We have a couple ornaments like that, but only one or two. It seems like a good way to organize one’s memory.

    ❤ All my best, Erica, to you and Gabe. Happy Winter-times.

    • If I find it, my friend, I promise to share.

      Do you think this could be your last Christmas with your mother? If that is the case, you should find a way to electrocute your cousin and uncle with Christmas lights. Because that’s just all sad, getting in the way of a woman’s potentially last Christmas with her beloved son.

      Hmm. You know? I find my memory is faltering horribly of late. I wonder if I’ve used it all up on ornaments? That would explain a LOT.

      • I *don’t* think this will be her last Christmas, because it’s just a hip surgery. I figure, at worst, it’s my last Christmas with her right leg. I might electrocute them anyway.

        At least your memory’s tied up on beloved, um, memories?

  3. simplyblake

    Oh, and I meant to say thanks for the DIY ice luminaries. They are AWESOME. And one more fact for you: I’m a Christmas baby!

  4. 1. I missed this post because holiday stress and blog break, so sorry for the late response.
    2. THOSE LIGHTS ARE AMAZING! I wish we could do that in Southern California. Man, Southern California is no fun sometimes.
    3. I love ornament stories. I myself have a ton due to the Xmas Eve birthday, and each one has a great story.
    4. The Snoopy one is my favorite. 🙂

    • Haha! It’s ok, I think I’ve missed most of your posts since…what, September? For a ton of reasons. So you’re still ahead of the game here.
      You know…you could actually make those lights. You’d just have to make them in the freezer and watch them melt fairly quickly. Our cold snap ended and now it’s in the 50’s and 60’s here so mine are long gone. We are scheduled for more cold starting tomorrow, though, so maybe I’ll make more!
      Oh! OH! You get ornaments for your birthday? That would be awfully fun. Do you have pics of any of them up in places I could find them? Not to sound creepy, of course… 🙂

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