Prepping for the holidays in rural America provides a spectacular kind of fun. In my family, it starts with a late fall girl’s trip, including my sister and eldest niece and this year, my sister-in-law and younger niece who have recently moved back to the area. We usually spend a weekend in a community within a few hour’s drive or less from home where we can visit Christmas themed shops and events. This trip is a time to do a little girl bonding, pick up a few decorative baubles for home, and perhaps a gift or two as well. As for family gifts, my siblings and our families have spent the last few years enjoying what we refer to as a “white elephant” Christmas. Because we are all well into our secure middle years, none of us truly wants or needs anything but we still enjoy giving to one another. Our rules for gifting are to give something we already own, something that we made or purchased from a community crafter, or from a resale store. That being said, the gift must have meaning to the recipient and not just be something that we wanted to rid ourselves of. This is a great way to share our blessings and perhaps ‘trade’ for things we would like to have or even to share an artistic skill.
After girl’s weekend, hubby and I can start to prepare our home for the holidays. We used to go to one of several local tree farms, take a horse driven cart ride through acres of woodlands, and dig or cut our own fresh tree every year. Now that we are a bit older, we prefer to skip traipsing through the snow in the bitter cold and head instead to a local garden and landscaping center to select a fresh tree that they have cut from their own fields. We then stop for lunch at a local restaurant and enjoy a hot cup of coffee to warm our chilly hands and toes. The tree is my favorite part of Christmas so getting it set up and decorated the next day is something I always look forward to. Listening to ‘White Christmas’ or ‘Christmas in Connecticut’ in the background really puts me in the holiday mood.
Over the years, I have tired of some of the interior decorations we have accumulated so I have started decorating more with live plants and flowers throughout my house, including Poinsettias, Christmas Cacti and Rosemary shrubs. The colorful blooms and aromas throughout the house, accompanied by a balsam candle or two really make our home look and smell of holiday joy. I do still like to decorate but I have pared down the pre-made decorations that I have to clean and store and I find that I do enjoy the environment more. After Christmas, any plants that do not survive are relegated to the compost pile while others are placed in my greenhouse for another season.
While Mr. LucyLoves used to light the exterior of our house with so many jeweled lights we used to tease him about airliners approaching, we have cut back in that area of décor as well. In our younger days, we spent a weekend climbing ladders, maneuvering across the roofline and around windows and doors and covering every limb on our wooded acres with beautiful lights. Now in our middle years, the prospect of climbing and traversing the rooftop in icy weather from dawn til dusk for two straight days has lost appeal. We have settled for decorating our rural home with a less artistic but still tasteful presentation, succumbing to the pre-lit spiral trees, roaming reindeer and a giant frosty to grace our frontage, with a fresh wreath from the garden center that I decorate with miniature lights. Oh, and my electric bill is much lower in January, too.
While we love to celebrate, life here in rural America doesn’t afford us a lot of opportunities to do so. Aside from a couple of family events, we spend most of our time enjoying our own tree, snuggled up with cocoa and a good book or working a jigsaw puzzle together. There are no block parties or museum galas, no disco nights or tree lighting events. If we had those things within driving distance we would love to attend but alas, getting to the few events we do have is always ‘hit-or-miss’ depending on the weather conditions and the distance we have to drive. No, the majority of our party experience is watching the birds at the feeders we maintain through one of many windows or listening to classic Christmas music while we play a couple rounds of Scrabble at the dining room table. It may not sound very exciting but it’s cozy, warm and stress-free. When I get the urge to dress to the nines in holiday attire, we head out to a restaurant and make a night of it, indulging in a favorite desert and a second glass of wine. There is the occasional low-key dinner party with friends and the sleigh ride with one of my horse riding pals that we always look forward to. Our town does host a fundraising light display at the park where Mr. LucyLoves and I got married and the county seat decorates to the hilt, complete with playing Christmas music over the town loudspeakers by day. There’s a Christmas tree decorating contest sponsored by the local Rotary Club for the local businesses and of course, every church and school has some sort of concert or pageant that all are welcome to attend. Rural Americans also seem to love their craft shows and we have dozens of them leading up to the holidays where you can buy everything from hand carved wood bowels, to maple syrup from local farms, to beach glass jewelry and sand castle figurines made of Lake Erie’s treasures. If you like a quiet life, you’ll find plenty of low-key, low-stress, low-commercial events to attend.
Here in rural America, we are content with family feasts, horseback rides under the moonlight wearing our coveralls, and bonfires on the lake shore. We cook and drink and we’re merry. If I could change one thing, it would be accessibility to all the festive light displays, theatre productions and public party events that the city has to offer. But I
wouldn’t change my country cottage Christmas for all the riches in the world nor would I wish for a different life. Christmas is about being grateful for our many gifts and appreciating the wonders at our disposal.
Wherever you live, live a beautiful life.