Our youngest, the 5-year-old, has been begging to decorate for Christmas.

In the past, I usually wait to dig out the red and green until the day after Thanksgiving when the long weekend finally provides extra time. Yesterday, I purchased a roll of Christmas ribbon to add to our decoration stash.

As I sit here writing, my youngest has informed me he is going to start decorating. He has taken a roll of packing tape and is taping down the festive ribbon across my dining room table, smiling while he works. I feel his excitement for this holiday season. Maybe it was the early snowfall or the colder than normal weather, but I’m ready. I’m ready to jump into holiday music, dancing lights, the smell of cinnamon and pine. Give me the peppermint mocha, carols and fun appetizers, I’m ready for it all. I haven’t purchased one gift yet, but also don’t have an ounce of stress over what I’m going to buy.

Like every year, I know I’ll figure it out. Have you ever thought back to good holiday memories of your childhood or early adult years? As I sift through those memories in my mind, I don’t remember the gifts, elaborate decorations or fancy dinners. In all honesty, sorry Mom and Dad, I can only recall one gift growing up. Yes, in eighth grade I received a dual cassette and CD player combo boom box. Greatest gift a teen in the early 90's could receive.

When I recently talked to my mom and told her about this one gift, she responded by saying “what about the red bike?” Sure, once she mentioned it, I remembered the bike. A moment of guilt was quickly followed by confirmation that for me, it wasn’t the gifts that made memories. Decorating cookies with my mom and sisters every year, now that’s something I will always remember. Sure, the mess my kids make with red hots for buttons and eyes, different colors of frosting and sprinkles galore is quite epic.

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But, I wouldn’t give up the memories we are creating. Growing up my aunt always had a beautifully decorated Christmas tree with matching ornaments and I just knew one day I would have my own. Except at almost 40, I still don’t. No, I have a tree filled with ornaments handmade by my kids, often heavily concentrated in one area where our youngest can reach. I grew up out in the country and sledding on big hills was always a highlight of the long winter break. My mom would pack snacks and a thermos of hot chocolate. My dad would meet us at the bottom and pull us back up the hill with his snowmobile.

Although my family now lives in the middle of the city, once the snow arrives, we frequently walk the short distance to a nearby sledding hill to create similar memories for my own kids. Yes, my kids will receive gifts this year. But I know the memories we are creating for them won’t be wrapped in red and green and gold. Those will be found in the kitchen, hanging on the tree and out on the sledding hill.