Decorating the house was about more than pretty lights and fancy trees. It brought us joy and reminded us that the happiest moments are those shared with others.

Christmas is my favorite holiday. It’s more than Santa and presents and food, though: it’s about coming together to share in something that makes everyone feel good. It’s about charity and kindness, about making the world a little bit better of a place–even if just for one day.

My favorite part always came right after Thanksgiving. During Thanksgiving weekend, or the weekend after if we were traveling, my family would pick a day to do all the Christmas decorating. We’d put holiday music on the stereo loud enough to hear through the whole house, and then get into the attic to pull down boxes and boxes of decorations.

The tree came first. We’d all help in assembling our Christmas tree (since my mom is allergic to real ones), with my father putting it up while my sister and I spread the boughs on each branch to make it look real. Then we’d string out the lights on the floor, checking to make sure each bulb worked, and hang lights and tinsel over the whole tree. Then came the best part: ornaments. My mother would unpack each ornament while my sister and I found the perfect place for each one. Yet it wasn’t just that the ornaments were pretty: many had stories to tell.

There was the bear ornament bought on my sister’s fifth birthday. The doghouse with a picture of our beloved first dog, Lady. Handmade ornaments from school or Girl Scouts, often given as gifts to my parents. There were ones that sparkled and others that sang, and even Star Trek ornaments with Spock’s voice. Each was a reflection of the many things that my family loved and shared together: Star Trek, Disney, Garfield, Snoopy, Sesame Street, crafts, and the Florida Gators. Then, when all the ornaments were done, came the tree topper. Originally, it was a beautiful golden star with lights that sparkled, but when that broke came my personal favorite: Tinkerbell waving her wand.

There were also household decorations: paper-ring banners, statues of Christmas characters and reindeer, bells for the doorknobs, special plates for Santa’s cookies and holiday treats, and wreaths. Finally, there came the stockings: each decorated by its owner with paint when my sister and I were little. In fact, my tree was even lopsided. And I loved it.

By the end, our home was like a canvas of all the things we loved. Christmas was about sharing those things with the people we loved. We were reminded of our shared passions: TV shows that we no longer watched but remembered from Saturday mornings, cookies that I learned to bake from my mother and grandmother, and how great it felt to put a smile on someone else’s face. As we brightened our house, I was reminded of all the happy times my family had together and given hope that there would be many more to share.

For me, Christmas was happiness. It was one that I spread to others as I grew older: helping others make crafts in Girl Scouts, giving out Christmas cards to all of my friends in high school, donating toys and clothes to charities for children, going caroling to assisted living facilities, and baking gingerbread cookies to give to everyone I knew.

While you may not celebrate Christmas, you might celebrate another holiday that brings you–and the people you love–as much joy as Christmas brings to me. I hope that you have something like that to share with others, and that you get to share it for many more years to come. Happy Holidays, everyone.

-Tiffany Piotti
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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