Tis the Season to Overdecorate

When I was a little girl, it wasn’t Christmas until my mother dragged up the nativity music box from the basement.  It was a big plastic replica of the manger scene, complete with cow. When you wound the key in the back it played Silent Night, and it smelled like a cross between a new Barbie and the dank cool air of the cellar. I loved it dearly. My mother put up with it for probably 10 years, and then one day in a fit of purging it disappeared.

I was remembering that nativity scene as I looked around my house today. These days when I close my eyes and picture Christmas, I see white walls, a simple green tree with pine cones, maybe a burlap skirt. A few plain green wreaths scattered about. One or two starfish. Something like this:

When I open my eyes however, that is not what I see. I see holiday throws on every surface, a flurry of hand-cut snowflakes dangling from the balcony, an overabundance of nutcrackers dancing across my mantel and a talking chipmunk, a dragon/egg warmer and a mouse holding a holiday tete-a-tete.  This is not a harmonious mix.

The talking chipmunk and friends.

The talking chipmunk and friends.

Some days I long to open up that Pottery Barn catalog and disappear into that faux serenity, that magical lifestyle where toys stay in their tastefully monogrammed bins, champagne glasses are always full and sparkling,  and singing chipmunks cannot be found. But then my kids build a manger out of magnatiles, or hijack baby Jesus and leave a ransom note, or pore over the Christmas books, reading favorite lines aloud to each other, and I think those perfectly decorated rooms look just a little bit lonely.

Christmas, at least here, is about the plastic managers. It’s about loving the imperfect items for what they represent. It’s about an electric current of joy so strong that it powers the whole holiday season, waking us all with the excitement of possibility, making the house shine more than any tinsel or lights ever could.  And that’s so much better than any catalog still-life.

Liz Michalski


  1. Maureen Plowman on December 3, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    I told fep all about the manger last night a bed time!!

    Maureen M Plowman

    • liz on December 3, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      I wish I had a picture of it!

  2. Jan O'Hara on December 3, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    We’re in an odd place in our family at present. Our kids aren’t invested in any decorations and the ToolMaster would rather put in time on basement renovations than adding to the upstairs clutter. I myself prefer an austere aesthetic. So this year he bought a collapsible LED colored tree. It’s spare but cheery, and it took five minutes to set up. Until we have young children in our home again, I suspect this will be the new normal, and I’m cool with that.

    • liz on December 3, 2013 at 5:11 pm

      I’m glad you are ok with the change, Jan. It sounds like a pretty little tree.

  3. Vaughn Roycroft on December 5, 2013 at 10:05 am

    We were just wondering how far we should go this year. We did the minimal thing last year… And I sort of missed the overdone look. I’m all for getting it all out this year. 🙂

    • liz on December 5, 2013 at 11:02 am

      Pics or it didn’t happen, Vaughn! I’ll show you ours…

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