Recently, while waiting for a preschool holiday program to begin, my mom sat patiently beside me as I fired off work emails left and right.

After reading one particular email that left me feeling rather cross, I leaned over to her and vented, “People don’t seem to value the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ much anymore.”

“I know,” she replied. “Good manners seem to have gone out of style.”

At that exact moment it occurred to me that I’d hardly looked up from my laptop since she’d first sat down (pot, meet kettle).

After all, what is politeness in word if not in deed? Perpetual productivity, and the constant state of distraction it breeds, is its own form of rudeness.

Presence matters.

Being in the moment is bliss.

Even if, like me, you fail spectacularly at this the other 11 months out of the year, take heart. December is replete with moments to disengage from the daily frenzy and just be. Best of all, we can do it simply, without inviting stress or creating the need for store-bought whatnots.

In my own family, I love seeing how our Advent calendar nativity scene takes shape each day based on the kids’ creativity. The only “fixed” element is baby Jesus, who stays in the December 24th pocket until bedtime on Christmas Eve. (If you visit my house and see harp-playing angels hoisted atop the desert palm trees, no judging, please.)

Watching the throwback animated classics like Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown, Frosty the Snowman and Mickey Mouse’s Christmas Carol, and seeing my own children take them in is another kind of fun entirely. I remember these shows as first introduced to my brother and me, on a 1987 home-recorded VHS. Utterly entranced, we watched it to the point of memorizing even the advertising jingles, which we’d then recite at random all month long: ‘A double pleasure’s waitin’ for you, Doublemint gum!’ and ‘York Peppermint Patty! Get the sensation!’ (The kids think we’re crazy, but all these years later, Uncle Matt and I can still do a killer rendition of ‘Ho, ho, ho! Who’s that kid with the Oreo cookie?’)

My December bliss? Savoring the simpler moments of the season - like curling up on my sofa with a good book, and this view of our modestly, meaningfully decorated mantel.
My December bliss? Slowing down and savoring what is simple, the whole season through.

By the time Christmas Eve rolls around, when my holiday prep exhaustion is at its peak, I like to steal away in the wee hours of the night for perhaps my most favorite moment of embracing the heart of it all.

Slipping downstairs, I plug in the Christmas tree and curl up on the sofa to admire its silent splendor. No amount of photo snapping, stylizing, sharing or social media liking could ever top the joy I feel in those moments, smiling like a fool in flannel pajamas, the only creature stirring in my house.

Sure, we do the umpteen other organized holiday activities, too. And sometimes they go well. Other times, they fail miserably.

But it’s these humblest of moments that take place at home – absent the pressures of “We made special plans! We went to a lot of trouble to do this! This is supposed to be fun!” – that truly sustain me.

This month, I wish for you the season’s simplest joys.

Blessings,

Rebecca

*this essay originally appeared in the Dec. 2014 issue of the Vestavia Voice and the Hoover Sun.