How Decorating For The Holidays Helped Me Grow Up

Don't call me a humbug.

In Defense Of Not Decorating For The Holidays
Photographed by Nicole Lev.

Until this year, I have never decorated my own home for the holidays. (To be honest, I only did this season because we did a photoshoot for Lonny.) The holidays have always been a slightly confusing time for me. I grew up in an agnostic household, but my dad's side of the family is Jewish and my mom's is Christian. I got tastes of both religions from going to a Presbyterian preschool and occasionally attending temple, but I decided for myself early on (except for a brief moment I wanted a Bat Mitzvah) that organized religion wasn't for me. So when December came around every year, the holidays were events centered around family, presents, and parties rather than spirituality. I often say that I grew up celebrating commercial Christmas and just one night of Hanukkah if my extended family could manage to get together to light the candles.

Now I'm not saying that I'm a scrooge that hates all things holiday. Driving around San Francisco to see trees lit up in the windows never fails to put a smile on my face. I give gifts to my family and coworkers. Heck, I even have the local Christmas music channel as a pre-set on my car radio and most definitely sing along at full volume when stuck in traffic. I truly love how the holidays bring people together. But when it comes to decorating my own space, I always felt conflict.

First, I feel weird spending money on decor items that I only bring out once a year. Living in a small space with multiple roommates, not only is there very little room to decorate, but I also have very limited storage. If I ever felt thing need to Marie Kondo my home, those items would definitely be the first thing to go. Second, as an agnostic, it feels strange to invest my time and space in setting up decor that ties back to a religion that I might not necessarily believe in. While Americans celebrate Christmas almost like a national holiday and Hanukkah may just seem like a time where folks light candles and eat latkes, at both of their roots, they are purely religious celebrations with rituals and prayers that would feel strange for me to participate in.

In Defense Of Not Decorating For The Holidays
Photographed by Nicole Lev.

Finally, while my apartment is my home, there's something I have always valued about going back to the town I grew up in for the holidays. Every year, my parents decorate our house with lights, poinsettias, small Santa figurines, and of course, a Christmas tree (or a Hanukkah bush as my dad likes to call it). While there is always something warm and comforting about coming home, when I arrive for my holiday vacation, the feeling is overwhelming. Maybe my senses are blurred from the pine aroma, but the emotions tied into the traditional holiday setup are amplified when contrasted with my simple modern apartment. I guess what it all comes down to is my desire for nostalgia.

Now, I have to admit that I have enjoyed creating a holiday aesthetic in my home this season. I smile every time I turn on my icicle lights lining my classic S.F. bay windows. While I might not necessarily believe in the prayers, I feel like I'm respecting my family's culture when I light the menorah each night. I was even able to host a holiday party in my apartment and actually invite others to join in with merriment I've created in my own space. When I go home, seeing my parents' holiday decor might not be as merry and bright as years past. But maybe it's okay for me to lose some of that childhood charm. I haven't lived at my family home full-time in over five years and I'm not planning on moving back any time soon. Perhaps feeling comfortable decorating means that I'm finally growing up and am ready to start some traditions on my own.

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