the best christmas spirit money can buy

The day my mother would get out the Christmas decorations was perhaps my favorite day of the season.

Something about the Santa mirror decals in the bathroom and the star that appears when the mug gets filled with cocoa and the silvery tinsel that ends up in little piles around the bottom of the tree and in the cat’s throw up just seems to get me in the spirit.

For the first time, I have a home of my own to decorate for my new tiny family. And I wanted to create that same tinsel-throw-up fuzzy feeling.

I looked through our storage and quickly realized that the only items we owned that could pass for holiday decor were two garland strands and a faded red dish towel. Apparently decorations only get into the storage if they’ve previously been stored. Dang.

So in order to make my home welcoming and festive it appeared I had to start from sqaure two (square one being the garland. Thanks ma and pa Shafer.).

Due to a series of unfortunate events, I found myself at Wal-Mart with a half hour prescription-filling wait time. Wal-Mart is the opposite of Christmas.

Wal-Mart had sectioned off an area of the store solely for holiday items big enough to open up another more reasonably sized store in. They had trees and lights and giant lawn Santas and chocolates and bows and a steady flow of seasonal tunes to get customers in the shopping spirit.

I found myself lost amongst it, that little guy in my stomach saying “I need. I want. I must have.” As if all my morals and values and beliefs about what this season and life in general is about were caving into this lie that a pretty home decorated with pretty things purchased at a big shiny store could make dreams come true and Christmas real and wrongs right.

Not so.

I managed to escape with just a few smelly candles and some red and green M&M’s (only the necessities). I left determined to prove that little stomach guy wrong.

I hate that guy.

After reestablishing my morals, I decided that a home could be decorated without killing children in China or sending your husband to work overtime every week up until Christmas to pay off the porcelain nativity scene figurines.

Next stop was Brand Spanking Used, a pretty okay thrift store with a pretty terrible name. Their Christmas section, although modest when compared to Wal-Mart’s, was filled with buried treasures of Christmas past that were about to become our Christmas present. I found lights, candles, a set of handmade star ornaments and a vintage Santa mug. Sold.

They went up in my house that afternoon while I listened to Matt Chandler and remembered who I was. And maybe it was the mug, but that festive feeling came. Just like at Mom’s.

To an outsider, our place doesn’t look spectacular nor showy. We will not be a stop on the Christmas Home Tour this year, unless their standards have plummeted to include basement-level two bedrooms. But to us, the smells and light and stars and warmth is enough of a reminder that this season is about remembering to hear the whisper under the wind, the hope of love come down.

And if a manger was enough for a king, then a basement is plenty. Especially if there’s M&M’s.

Decorating without Corporating:

1. Make your own stockings. And everything else. Here’s how.  

2. Bake something Christmas. Do it often enough and you’ll find you wont need scented candles.

3. Create ornaments out of felt.

4. Listen to music that brings joy. It’s contagious. Amy Grant is a staple.

5. Lights. At a dollar a strand, they are a cheap way to make Christmas party mood lighting. The big colorful ones are and have been tacky since the mid-nineties, fyi.

6. Candles. They smell good, they look good, they are good. Do not put them on your tree.

*Note to readers: the majority of the photos in this blog were taken by Baily Hollen at her home – which she’s decorated almost entirely of items she’s purchased from the dollar store. She wins.

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