A picture-perfect holiday

Published 9:03 pm Tuesday, December 3, 2019

By Nathan Rice

The first Christmas song of the season came on my radio as I was flipping through stations. It was the original version of “Sleigh Ride.” The artist sang of sleigh bells, lovely weather for a sleigh ride, pumpkin pie and chestnuts going pop … pop, pop, pop.

It’s an American classic that we’ll probably all hear numerous times this month. The song brings to mind a picture-perfect American Christmas, or should I say that it gives us an image that causes us to dream of a Christmas that “will nearly be like a picture print from Currier and Ives”?

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Americans have been seeking the picture-perfect Christmas for a long time, but it seems that we have increased our desire for perfection around the holidays throughout the last decade.

Some of this may have to do with our use of social media. We now broadcast images of our holiday celebrations to the world, and we desire that these images mirror the Currier and Ives prints of old.

Marketing departments have taken advantage of this trend, and they spend tons of money over the holidays to show us that these picture-perfect holidays are possible if we spend enough money on their products.

Movies and television may play a part in this quest for a perfect holiday, as they often set a stage that cannot be repeated in real life. We see perfect holidays played out before our eyes, and we want to place those days into our lives.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a great holiday season. December is a month that people tend to remember. Families gather, schools take a break, and even some businesspeople take a moment away from focusing on the bottom dollar. It’s a special time of year, so wanting things to be nice is understandable.

The problem is that this desire for a picture-perfect holiday requires us to spend a lot of time and energy throughout the month trying to make every detail of the holiday season flawless, and, in many cases, it keeps us from focusing on what really matters.

A beautifully decorated table with a golden turkey and side dishes carefully placed in stylish matching bowls may make for a wonderful picture, but it’s not always possible. Not everyone knows how to make a perfect meal, and sometimes money does not permit a huge feast with matching flatware. It’s easy to get so caught up into making a perfect meal that we forget the most important thing is not what is on the table but those who gather around the table with us.

Likewise, a beautifully decorated Christmas tree with elegantly wrapped presents underneath can give a Currier and Ives-type Instagram picture, but likes on a social media post should never be our goal. Rather, we should focus on those we love and treasure our time with them. Proudly hang the dried macaroni ornament the kids made on the tree, and don’t be embarrassed if there aren’t many boxes under the tree. People are always more important than pictures.

Beautifully decorated Christmas cookies may look nice on a plate and prove your Food Network-worthy baking ability to the world, but allowing little hands to mix the dough and ice the cookies gives you time with them, and that is much more important than a professional-looking pastry.

I have nothing against Christmas decorations or making things as beautiful and festive as possible, but I hope we aren’t sacrificing time with the people we love in the name of perfection. Decorations and parties will never provide “the happy feeling nothing in the world can buy.” Let’s focus on people. After all, times with those we love are the things “we’ll remember all through our lives.”

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.