A quiet Christmas

There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions. ~ Bill McKibben, American author and environmentalist

The winter light is bright in the garden, starkly shadowing the browns and grays of winter, yet still beautiful to me. The winter solstice has passed and now each day is a little longer, a little brighter.

The rooms were very still while the pages were softly turned and the winter sunshine crept in to touch the bright heads and serious faces with a Christmas greeting. ~ Louisa May Alcott

It is that time of year that nature is brought into the house in the form of greens and berries and fruit. I have been taking my time this year to “deck the halls”, making slow but steady progress in decorating the house, baking cookies and bread, writing Christmas notes by the fire, and just . . . remembering.

The trees are the first order of decorating business, no matter that it now takes me a week instead of 2 days to light them and hang the ornaments. Favorite Christmas music plays on the stereo while I place each ornament laden with nostalgia on the trees. I remember where and when I found each treasure – many came from our travels, pressed paper ornaments from New Mexico and a rustic nativity set handmade in Peru. Some were gifts from friends and family, who knew I loved angels as well as Angel.

The woodland tree in the family room is warm and earthy in tones of copper and brown, inspired by the view of our woods from the window. It is full of feathered birds, woodland creatures, rustic Santas and sparkling glass ornaments. (Click any photo in the mosaic to see a larger image)

The tree in the hallway is altogether different, hung with musical instruments, angels and celestial bodies in white, silver and gold. This is the tree that can be seen from the front entrance, glowing in the dark of night.

I went the extra mile this year, creating wreaths and arrangements of greens to “deck the halls” with color and fragrance. 


My favorite book of carols sits on the piano, and I play through a few each day. Music has been an integral part of Christmas for my whole life and I don’t think that will ever change. 

It’s about making your own raft of time. Your own doorway into Christmas. . . Ritual isn’t about multitasking. Ritual is time cut out of time. Done right it has profound psychological effects.” ~Jeanette Winterson, Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days

It is in the quiet moments of preparing for Christmas that I recall memories of family, of past holidays. As I baked cookies from my mother’s cookbook of favorite family recipes, I thought often of her. She passed away this May and I haven’t fully processed that loss, but it was comforting to bake familiar treats from her book. In addition to her many other talents, she was a marvelous baker – she made bread every weekend when my brothers and I were growing up, and was a master of pies, cookies, and cakes.


One of the joys this year was finding a new home for my mother’s beloved cat after she passed. Through the help of friends, sweet Olaf had a soft landing with a wonderful family who loves him and he even has a new cat brother Toby. Olaf seems content this Christmas with his family and I am so happy for him. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Nogrady)

It’s Christmas Eve now, time to play carols, read stories, wrap presents, maybe watch a favorite holiday movie. Wherever you are and whatever holiday you celebrate, I wish you a beautiful season full of light, warmth and love. Stay safe, my friends.

I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year. ~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

All text and photos ©2021 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved, except where noted.

34 thoughts on “A quiet Christmas

  1. Fantastic Christmas images! 🙂

    Great to hear of Olaf’s re-homing (sorry to hear of your mother’s passing). Many cats are homeless for various reasons that Covid-19 has only accelerated. I’ve got 3 rescues myself so I have to scramble to help any others I run across.

    • Thank you, Tracy! Olaf was so lucky to find a new family that loves him so much; I love getting photo and video updates from his Mom. My husband is allergic to cats so we couldn’t keep him, but he is such a sweetheart. So glad you have rescues; years ago we raised a large litter of feral kittens, socialized them and found them homes, a very satisfying experience.

  2. Beautiful, Lynn, with deep spirits hovering. The missing Angel. A biography with no people … you and Bill are beautifully present however. My very best to you both and I miss your wonderful trees and light; tastes and music.

  3. You have matched the power of this year’s losses with a special beauty in your home for the holidays. I’m sure it was therapeutic and I know it doesn’t make the hurt disappear but I think this deliberate, thoughtful way of arranging things in your home is moving – for us, for your family and for you. Losing a beloved pet and your mother in one year! Well, the first quote is wise and relevent. You did what you were moved to do and it’s beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing it here. I know you will be equal to any challenges the New Year brings, but I hope it’s a healthy, happy, and creative one. Take care, Lynn!

    • Lynn, as usual, your deep powers of perception are at play. Yes, I think you are right, setting my house in order and beautifying it was a way of creating a path forward after such a difficult year. In fact, I felt a deep satisfaction and release in that process and wandering about the house each evening through the display of light and color confirms those feelings. And of course, writing about it deepens the process further. Thank you for your well wishes and I hope for you a beautiful and creative year to come.

      • You expressed what I was trying to say a little more clearly, which is good – I know you understand what I’m trying to say. 😉 You’re good at that. Thank you for the good wishes, too. Soon you’ll be dreaming spring garden dreams…maybe accompanied by treats from your mother’s recipe book. Sounds good to me!

    • Thank you, Richard. Winter is beautiful, just not so colorful – I think that is why I love to bring color into the house for the holidays. I wish you a wonderful Christmastide and a joy filled New Year to come.

  4. Thanks for this post, Lynn. I’d say it has to be the most beautiful, warmest and inspirational piece I have seen this year–a year interfered with in so many ways by COVID! I know you’re not in competition, but your whole presentation, complete with memories, fragrance and music, leaves Martha Stewart in the dust! A Merry Christmas to you and yours, and a happy, healthy and peaceful new year!

    • Wow, Mary! I’m definitely not in competition but I am very flattered by your words. All I can say is that this piece was heartfelt and emerged as an expression of my inner life, for what that is worth to others. I wish you a very Merry Christmas and all good things for the coming year.

    • Thank you, Chloris. Ornaments are so fun to collect and take up very little room in the suitcase – they also bring back great memories of trips taken. I wish you a wonderful holiday – thanks for stopping by!

  5. Your trees are lovingly decorated and look so beautiful. I no longer decorate the house for Christmas and I handed most of my tree decorations to my daughter – but it is true that many of them hold so many memories. You have had a tough year with the loss of your mum and Angel. I’m sure you have found solace in your beautiful garden and your wonderful music. Take care Lynn and I wish you and everyone in the world a much better 2022 xx

  6. So beautiful, Lynn! I love both trees and agree that taking time allows so much more space for recollection and gratitude. Happy to read of Olaf’s soft landing.

    I’m sorry for the huge losses of your mother and Angel this year, and hope you’ll be comforted by this quiet time of peace. Sending love. Xoxo

    • Thank you, dear Kitty. I get regular updates and pics of Olaf, his family is wonderful and they love him – couldn’t be better!

      This was a difficult year, losing two important souls in my life and other health issues. So it has been very healing to take lots of time to reflect and decorate for the holidays. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, dear friend, and many blessings to you.

  7. Lynn,

    First, a Merry Christmas to you!

    Thank you for your lovely music! I must say that it is your music with the brass solos that I like the most…and if memory serves it was that music that I was lucky enough to experience in person.

    How you have lived your life is impressive. You have done nothing half-way, followed your heart and impacted many…Wow!

    I look forward to seeing pictures of your garden this summer, I bet it is going to be spectacular! I have this vision of it being enjoyed from many vantage points…all of God’s creatures from your life, in heaven and on earth, near and far. Bringing peace and joy to all…

    Hugs to you and Bill!!!

    Cindy Rella Babcock

    • Merry Christmas and hugs to you too, Cindy! So glad you liked the music; yes, Sketches of America was the piece you heard in concert.
      I hope the garden is wonderful this coming year; this past season, all we did was weed, prune, and regenerate. It did seem to have a new lease on life by the end of the season so my hopes are high for next year! Have a wonderful holiday, my friend!

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