(@1 AM – promoted by On The Bus)
My wife, children and I aren’t practicing Christians but we do believe that Jesus was part of the divine hierarchy that has guided the overall evolution of the human being. We have celebrated a somewhat traditional Christmas as a family ever since Leslie and I got married years ago, but we gradually started making small alterations to the way we celebrated together that were consistent with our spiritual practice. For years Leslie has done an excellent job of working out how to mold our holiday celebrations into something more Sahaj or natural. One example of this she describes in her post about transforming Independence Day into Inner Dependence Day.
This year, after our big move and daily hard work of setting up our homestead, we felt like we had little energy left to whip up a big Christmas holiday. We figured we would have a lean Christmas and prepared the children for that. One of the issues was logistics. Every time you move into a new place, you have to figure out where everything goes all over again. Then when Christmas rolls around, you are suddenly committed to additional unpacking and more rearranging. We are still moving things around here in Floyd as it is and we could not figure out any appropriate place to put a tree in the midst of all of this. Money is tight and, even more importantly, for years we have wrestled with the whole idea of chopping a tree down just for decoration in the first place. It seems extravagant and vaguely wrong. We love the smell of the tree and love having one in our home and Floyd County is the Christmas Tree Capital of Virginia after all, but ironically this is the year we finally decided against getting a Christmas tree at all.
I have had an idea in the back of my mind for a while to stack hay bales or straw bales in a ? shape like a manger and decorate accordingly rather than going the usual Christmas tree route. This idea came to me when many of the people who saw our first straw bale cowshed back in Louisa commented that it looked like the Christmas stable/manger. If we went ahead and actually decorated with bales, I thought, then we could use the bales for our livestock afterwards rather than waste a tree’s life.
So as we had just completed the exterior of our straw bale milking barn while I was thinking about all of this again for this year, the idea quickly got converted into the somewhat larger idea of an all-out “Christmas in the Barn” family celebration. Since we feed our animals from the back of the barn and milk our cows right there in the barn, our winter holiday kind of turned naturally into a Christmas in a manger approach through sheer proximity. We already had outdoor barn lights but I needed to find a way to get light into the barn as we have to milk after dark during the winter. It turned out that white Christmas lights did the trick perfectly. The pieces continued to fall into place for us until it became “Christmas in the Barn” with light providing the central theme.
In the dark world in which we now live, it is helpful to find the essential goodness in everything including Christmas. The original Christmas story was one of a light in the heavens showing the way to the light who was being born in a manger down below. By getting back to basics, we replicated this idea to some extent and this gave us a happy, simpler outcome. As our children said, “This is the best Christmas ever.” But, of course, they always say that.