Jenna Hauck is a multimedia journalist with The Chilliwack Progress. (Chilliwack Progress file)

Jenna Hauck is a multimedia journalist with The Chilliwack Progress. (Chilliwack Progress file)

COLUMN: Minimalist family Christmas yet again

‘I enjoyed the little things that year… and it turned out to be a pretty great Christmas after all’

No big family dinner. No kids sitting together to open presents with cousins and grandparents. No extended family hugs.

Christmas 2020 is going to be quiet, sad and depressing for many. And for me, it’s turning out to be a repeat of Christmas 2017.

My daughter was a mere six weeks old at the time and she was sick. She had been sick every single day since she was five days old. She could never seem to get a break.

Shortly before the holidays, my son picked up a gastrointestinal virus at daycare and passed it along to his baby sister. I recall isolating with her in our bedroom so that my husband – the chef – wouldn’t get sick, but it didn’t work.

Eventually we all did catch that gastrointestinal virus, but thankfully my husband and I caught it at different times.

About a week before Christmas, we were all feeling well again, but by then we had passed the virus on to grandparents on both sides of the family.

I felt terrible.

Christmas was not going to happen – not in December, anyway. My snowbird parents were going to be heading south right around the new year and the window for us to gather soon after Dec. 25 was too small.

It was my newborn daughter’s first Christmas and she was not going to spend it surrounded by her extended family.

I felt so guilty for passing that horrible virus on to our elderly loved ones, and as a result it was going to be just the four of us for Christmas that year.

I cried.

And so there I was on Christmas Eve, my kids were asleep and I was looking at our living Christmas tree. It was a small Norfolk pine, about two-feet tall. Light, handmade paper ornaments hung from its large, but delicate, branches.

I reminisced as I stared at that little tree that we bought two years prior for my son’s first Christmas. I recall Brian Minter saying it probably wouldn’t last longer than about six months as they need the right amount of water, light and temperature to be happy.

I’m really good at neglecting plants, and I don’t know exactly how our Norfolk pine survived, but there it stood two years later as green and healthy as could be. It survived.

Three small gifts for each of the kids sat beside the tree, and tucked inside the stockings were a handful of toys.

It was a minimalist Christmas, and I was OK with it.

The next day, we feasted on comfort food of coq au vin for dinner and smoked salmon for lunch. We had fancy chocolates, panettone and stollen as treats, and our glasses were filled with mimosas and homemade eggnog.

I held and nursed my daughter throughout the day and stole cuddles from my busy toddler whenever possible.

I enjoyed the little things that year, like the soft breath of my baby as she slept in my arms, the paper sailboat that was our tree topper, and my two-year-old son shouting out “cheers to Santa!” as we raised our glasses at dinner.

It turned out to be a pretty great Christmas after all.

I made the best of that quiet holiday (as quiet as a house can be with a newborn and a toddler), and two months later my entire “big” family – all 12 of us – got together for our Christmas celebration in February.

As Christmas nears this year, I’m getting all the same feelings come over me again as I look forward to the little things that come with a minimalist Christmas.

Instead of a sleeping baby in my arms, I will probably have an exhausted toddler with her head on my lap. Instead of a sailboat atop our tree, we have a yellow paper star my son made with a ridiculous amount of glitter on it. (I’m still finding glitter on my socks.) And instead of cheersing to Santa… well, actually, I’m sure we will still cheers to Santa.

As you celebrate this very different Christmas with your immediate family, think of the little things that bring you joy.

We survived the Christmas of 2017.

We will survive the Christmas of 2020, and you will too. Just ask our still-living Norfolk pine.

Jenna Hauck is a multimedia journalist with The Chilliwack Progress.

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