Festivity doesn’t come to us. Festivity is Made.
I thought we would host my family on December 10.
I thought we would get out of hosting and escape to my parents’ for an easy Christmas dinner December 25.
I thought we would host my husband’s family on December 27.
I thought my husband would be working a lot around this holiday.
Instead, we got COVID-19.
“But you’re missing Christmas!” my friend said to me.
“Oh, I don’t know.” I responded, “We’re missing mass, but that happened in 2020 anyway. I’ve been in a hospital room all the way up until December 23. I’m home, all my children are with me, we have everything we need, even an organ or two or three and an organist. Our symptoms are mild. There are worse things we could face.
“The gifts are wrapped, the house decorated and quarantine is over next Wednesday, which, because we follow that Catholic tradition of the octave of Christmas and the 12 Days of Christmas, Wednesday is still just as much Christmas.
“My son had a slight fever on Saturday but it stayed below 100 and broke Sunday morning. Because of his condition, we would be in the hospital right now if it had gone up just one degree.
“And we just found out my freelancing husband will be given full pay by one of his primary contracts as a gesture of love and care towards our family.
“So, I’m grateful for what I’ve got.”
How will we approach this strange turn of events?
We asked for help. It was hard to ask, but we needed to do it. We are too rural and haven’t enough resources to do grocery or meal delivery. Friends and family filled in the gap. We have more food than we can handle and there is a feeling of comfort in that.
This morning my husband and I planned our Christmas Eve dinner, our Christmas morning breakfast, and our Christmas day dinner, all of which were subject to change now that he will be home for all of it. Every holiday of great importance has been a dance around his work schedule, and this year we are just home.
The children anticipated parties galore. They anticipated their play space, a vacant barn used mostly for storing tables, to be transformed into an event space filled with aunts, uncles, cousins, Christmas lights and trees. My eldest child grappled with the loss of the opportunity to sing in the choir on Christmas Day.
We are Catholic and nothing can replace being in person at mass on Christmas Day. But things being what they are, we have to make alternative plans.
So what did we do?
I happen to have a few church pews in that barn. I purchased them thinking they could work for event seating (they do not). The children call it their mission church.
Wednesday morning before Christmas, we strung unused white string mini-lights around the rafters of the barn. We hung finger-woven garland along those rafters. My parents provided an artificial Christmas tree. I brought in extra decor I thought too risky in a house with a two-year-old. We moved a $4 brass chandelier to the center of the barn above a long row of tables and draped it with battery-powered colored lights and a silvery olive leaf garland.
This isn’t Instagram Perfect
The walls are grey with aged wood. You can see the marks of water that seeped through during the storm.
The dirt turned to mud where a metal roof panel blew off in the last rain.
The cement is uneven and slopes down to the sides.
In the corner, there stands stacks and stacks of styrofoam sheeting from medical shipments and old shop lights removed when we remodeled my husband’s music studio.
It’s cold without insulation, heat or glass in the windows. There is no other lighting.
Our puppy ran away.
We hear the lambs bleating in the barn next to us. The fevers and fatigue come and go.
But we are together. We are ridiculous enough to set up a 1200 sqft place for no one at all.
Except it isn’t for no one.
It’s for us.
Festivity is made. It doesn’t come to us. It doesn’t require luxury or met expectations. It requires a bit of adventurousness. It requires a bit of silliness. It requires a childlike-enough spirit to see the world with wonder and make the choice to delight in it.
I do not know what Christmas Day will feel like. I do know that on Christmas Eve when the sun goes down, we’re going to shiver ourselves over to “the mission” with candles lit and welcome the Christ child into our hearts.