Mall Stall

I sat there and wished I had my camera. I fumbled with my phone, trying to figure out how to take a photo with it. No go: too advanced for my feeble tech-challenged brain. It was a mall Santa who had caused this “need to photograph.” He was gorgeous; the perfect Santa. I stood there and watched him with the children on his lap. Babies didn’t cry. Kids weren’t scared. He was spectacular. Could it be?

Realizing that I was going to miss the photo, I was tempted to get in line myself to have my picture made with him. But then, what in the world would I do with that? Me and Santa? Really! So I just sat there and watched and took it all in.
Huge gold bells, big red velvet bows, green garland, poinsettias, Christmas music.
I wasn’t here by choice. I came here not by design. I just happened to be in a seminar beside one of Atlanta’s favorite and oldest malls, Lenox Square, an Atlanta institution. ( And at every single break of this seminar, after I’d pour myself a cup of coffee, or tea, or grab a water or soda, I’d mosey over to the large windows that overlooked Lenox Square. I’d watch as the tiny people below scurried in and out of the mall. I could see the huge decorated Macy’s Great tree high on top of the Macy’s store. I saw the shoppers, ants really, rush through the parking lot, carrying bags and bags of stuff. Bags and bags and bags of stuff. I watched as valet drivers whooshed the Porsches and Jags and even a red Lamborghini around the valet parking lot (and I thought-man, if I had a car like that I’d never ever valet park.)
I must confess. These sights put me in the Christmas spirit. I looked down on all that madness and “felt” Christmas-y inside. I stood there watching all that Christmas apparent and bobbed my head and hummed Christmas songs.
So I decided, during one of those extended breaks, to stroll over to the mall. And I have to tell you-I am not a mall person. I am a shopper, but not a mall shopper.  But something drew me in. I wanted to shop.
Oh, the crowds! Tons and tons of people. They strolled through the stores, buying this and that, filling their arms with bags. I walked through Macy’s and Bloomie’s and Neiman’s. I looked at the faces of other shoppers. I listened to their conversations with each other and with the people at the other end of the cell phone. I watched a group of teenage girls, sitting right next to each other, texting some person not there. (I totally don’t get that, btw.)
What’s notable is what I didn’t see. I didn’t see Christmas. I only saw decorations. I heard music, but I didn’t feel Christmas. I came here to join in and couldn’t find it. I didn’t see outward joy or bliss. I saw hurriedness and stress. I heard sharpness of folks with each other.
And that’s when I stopped looking for Christmas at the mall. I was not going to shop. So I wondered into a candy store and bought two swirly red and green lollipops, one for me and one for my daughter.

I sat down on a bench close to Santa’s roped off North Pole area. I unwrapped my lollipop and sat there, enjoying the lollipop and coming up with this post. I thought about how I had come here because I thought Christmas was here. I had seen it out of the window and was drawn here. And yet it wasn’t here at all. This felt more like chaotic Christmas.
An older woman sat beside me eating a pretzel (that looked buttery and delicious, by the way.) “Are you having a good day?” I asked her. “Oh, yes, I love to come here at Christmas time. It’s so festive and pretty.” Hmmm, well then I’m being too harsh. We sat there in silence until I said, “Is that pretzel as good as it looks?” “Better!” she replied. “Where did you get it?” I asked her. She directed me to the spot around the corner, a place of the heavenly pretzels, Auntie Annes.
For me the mall was devoid of true Christmas spirit. It was empty and hollow. I do mean, FOR ME. It’s obviously not that for many,many other people, including the lady with the pretzel. But, for me it felt “for show.” Not real. Not genuine. Well, except for this beautiful Santa there in the middle of the mall. He shone.
Christmas, I guessed, is what you make it. So I tried to define in my mind the kind of Christmas I’d like to have with my family this year. The words “Christmas-in-the-raw” formed in my head. I realized that this year, what I’m after is a “natural” Christmas, a basic to the basics holiday. I mean, I want to keep the traditions and special activities, but get rid of the things that just stress us out and make us overly busy. I want a tree and presents and decorations. But I don’t want to spend many of my free, waking hours devoted to the rush of the season. I like shiny tinsel, but I also like substance. This year, I want to figure out a way to keep things in perspective. In order for me to enjoy the whole process that the Christmas season is, from decorating to baking, I’ve got to do less.That’s really the bottom line for me. Less.
I wrapped back up what was left of my lollipop and got up. I went to get one of those pretzels and then walked back over to my seminar. During the next break, I gazed out that window and knew that Christmas wasn’t over there. It was over here.
When will I ever learn?
Now, let’s hear from you! Where and how do you amazing Farmgirls find and keep Christmas? Leave a comment!
Until next time, Friends, savor the flavor of life!

Lots of love, The City Farmgirl, Rebekah

Check out this brilliant blog post at a blog called Zen Habits:

  1. Laura says:

    Hi Rebekah,

    Enjoyed your post. I used to go to Lenox mall when I was a child to ride the pink pig. That felt like Christmas then.

    Now, my husband and I love to stay at our "farm" – our house in the country where I garden and he does his art – for the holidays. This year I’m finally putting up a greenhouse, so I’ll be spending long hours poring over my seed collection and getting some newbies started.

    I love the long winter nights when I can read next year’s seed catalogs and dream of spring gardens.

    We’ll put up a tree, bring some holly in from the yard, and open some jams and pickles we put up last summer. We’ll do presents and call family and friends, but probably our favorite tradition now is relishing the solitude and restoration we find in having a quiet Christmas at home.

    Happy Holidays!

  2. Valeroe says:

    I plan on making practically all of my christmas gifts this year. I just hope I can get it all done, most of my gifts though will be table runners. Since I am a brand new sewer and quilter hopefully these will go by pretty fast. Since my husband and I have our own home this year we will be getting a real christmas tree. I had wanted to make a popcorn and cranberry garland however with our cat and dog my husband thinks it would become food. lol, however I might still make one and having it somewhere they cant reach.

  3. This was a wonderful article. I think often we have "christmas" pushed at us so hard by all the retail/commercial scenes, that we have to fight to not lose the meaning to Christmas.
    By the time December gets here many are all ready done with all the decorations/music & pressure that have been thrown at them since September/October.
    I intend to not stress & fret over Christmas this year. I will be thankful for fun times spent with the family.
    Baking cookies and other treats to share with friends. Finding other family memories to create that don’t center around the latest gizmo or gadget that "we have to have" if we believe the all the commercials.

  4. Chris Haines says:

    Christmas is reading the Christmas story to my 4 year old grandchild and playing with the nativity, acting out the story with my two 1 year old’s grandbabies, Knowing about the greatest gift of God’s Son.

  5. kay says:

    Less is the key this year for me…less family, less baking, less decorating, and that is fine with me. Been kind of fun doing more for others who’s needs outweigh mine. I know that isn’t a humble statement but it is the reason for the season.

  6. Genevieve says:

    Less is the key for me, too. Most volunteer-run organizations are overwhelmed with holiday signups only to be desperate for help again come January. So this year, I’ll postpone the helping until January, go shopping for pet supplies with The Boy and then drop them at a local shelter, and replace some of the gifts with heartfelt calls. We’re also…

    GASP! Picking up a few pans of catered food to eat on Christmas Day! I know, I know–it’s especially alarming since I love to cook. But I do it every day–always healthy, always homemade. If a catered Christmas ends up being the less that’s actually more, then I’m all for it!

  7. Kristy says:

    Well, I know exactly what you mean. Our family is always in danger,this time of year, of missing the "good stuff", because of the pace that seems to come with Christmas. My favorite way to keep Christmas is to celebrate the Advent season. We get hot chocolate and read our Advent story and light our candles (sometimes there’s a blazing fire in the hearth) But, for 20 minutes, every night for a month, we are all together….really together. We also home school, so I work in time to make cookies and paper chains.
    I’m in agreement, less is really best. Have a Merry Christmas!!

  8. mara says:

    Hi Rebekah, I know just what you mean about the holidays…I just had the most unbelievable experience I know I will never forget. I do volunteer work for various org. and was nominated to go to the White House to attend a Holiday Open House. I received a personal invitation from the First Lady, I went and had a very unforgettable time! The food was fabulous, and I was able to get a hug and handshake from the First Lady!!! This is my first blog (if that is what I am doing) ever, and what a great way to start. I will never forget this Christmas ever. All of the volunteers there were wonderful and friendly. Anyway, I am back to peacfulness on our farm and have cookies to bake now, so I need get back to normal. Thank you for a wonderful writing about using and reusing. The First Lady had lots of recycled ornaments and I got great ideas to use on my own home. Merry Christmas!

  9. Debbie says:

    Loved this Rebekah! I think Christmas is what WE make it at home and what we open our hearts to seeing during the season. Not what is shoved at us from every possible angle months ahead of time. Maybe it takes getting a little older to realize it, I’m not really sure, but here it is December 7th… I haven’t purchased one gift ( I have a house full of loved ones to buy and bake for though )nor is my home decked out for the holidays… yet… This year I decided I’m having a SLOOOOOW and Creative Christmas…I baked my first ever ( from scratch ) pumpkin pie via Mary Jane’s Farm mag recipe and instructions last night by the light of a kerosene lantern as we wait for the last phase of our kitchen remodeling to be done …LIGHTING… ( that’s tomorrow)… anyway, the game was on in the living room, and I was alone in my almost finished kitchen baking and enjoying the smells and the quiet… it was lovely… and you know what? It FELT like Christmas to me! The tree is in the yard waiting to be brought in and decorated and I know right where my decorations are when I get ready to pull them out and get to it…For a different touch on our Christmas we’ll be adding some beachy shells to our traditional wreaths to celebrate the beautiful place we call home near Cape Cod…. and friends will be coming by for an early Christmas Brunch on the 19th….My hubby has dusted off the Christmas music ( that’s his thing ) which now rings through the house from now until the New Year arrives… I’d say we are all set!
    Merry Christmas to you and thank you for all of your wonderful words through out the past year!
    Look forward to more in 2011!
    Beach Blessings~

  10. MaryFrantic says:

    I’m always blessed by your conversations with us. Thanks for taking your valuable time to share. Most of us don’t have the talent (let alone the time) to set their thoughts to pen and share like this. So if you’re having a stressful time one of these days and think "why am I doing the MJF blog on a regular basis?"…please don’t quit. … Just this one article has added to my personal Christmas enjoyment!

  11. Debbie says:

    ps. That post on Zen habits? WONDERFUL AND ON POINT!

    Thank you for including it in yours…

    Beach Blessings,

  12. bonnie ellis says:

    Rebecca: I don’t think you can make Christmas slow but you can simmer it. A slow, steady infusion of all the senses; smells of cinnamon, spice, pine and egg nog. The feeling of wet snow on your face or the heat of an open fire and the warmth of mittens on your hands.The sound of wind in the trees,bells on horses and giggling children. The touch of a loved one or snuggling pets. Those are the simple joys. Enjoy

  13. kathy schild says:

    My husband and I have two barely grown children( early twenties) and two much younger children (ages 7 and 11). When our older two were little, my husband and I repeated a lot of what we had grown up with, which was commercialism and materialism. We did this without really thinking; it was just tradition. At some point, however, as our two youngest grew from babies into toddlers, we began to make changes in our thinking, and thus our traditions. ADDITION by SUBTRACTION became our goal. Last year, I knit something for just about everyone, not big things, but thoughtful things like neck cozies, berets, and organic cotton washcoths accompanied by a fragrant soap. I also had dates with my two oldest, eating lunch out with my daughter and getting her hair done at her favorite salon, and eating dinner out with my son and shopping with him for a cordoroy blazer. My husband picked out age appropriate wood working tools for our two youngest, since that was (and still is) a major interest for both of them, and then (this is the important part) he and they spent time together making items with those tools. This year so far, we have watched a gorgeous amaryllis grow from a plain brown bulb right before our very eyes. We also sketched it and sent the drawings to my grandmother in another state. We are reading Dickens’ Cricket on the Hearth, a little every day, which transports us back to a MUCH simpler time in terms of contentment. I have a decorated shoe box on the kitchen table which has the countdown to Christmas on the lid (I change the number every morning). When my little guys wake up, they check the box to see what I have put in there, which are activities that involve togetherness: 3 games of rummy, baking gingersnaps, hot chocolate for breakfast, etc. This gets the focus off getting "stuff" and on to time spent together enjoying the season. Once you adopt this mindset, it’s amazing how easily you detect the traps of commercialism and come up with an alternative plan pleasing to everyone in the family!
    Merry Christmas!

  14. Cathy Hale says:

    You’re so right… Christmas is within us…in our hearts. With each thing we do for someone else, each time we sing a carol, each time we slow down enough to really enjoy the sights, sounds, taste, aromas and most of all feelings of Christmas, we are truly celebrating.

  15. Keleen says:

    I can definitely identify with your mall stall, Rebekah! After working retail for 10 Christmases straight, I truly needed a "Christmas Break". The joyful season was no longer joyful for me. So for the past few years, I have been on a Christmas detox. Family presents are exchanged at Thanksgiving, I send Happy New Year cards instead of Christmas cards to a few friends I don’t see very often, decorations are minimal, my husband and I take our vacation the week of Dec. 25, and I DON’T GO TO THE MALL! Your message should be shouted from the rooftops: Less IS Best!! I loathe what the Christmas season has become for so many: a Thirst for Things! Every day of our lives, not just at Christmas, should be like our Saviour–meek and lowly, kind and compassionate, with a heart for others. So I applaud all you sweet Farmgirls who are slowing down the pace and spending your time making memories with family and friends with simply LOVE.

  16. Judy says:

    This is exactly what I needed to read. I was beginning to feel the familiar frantic Christmas rush kicking in. This helps me put it into perspective. It shouldn’t be frantic, should it? Thank you for your inspiring words!

  17. Shery Jespersen says:

    All one needs to do is spell Christmas to themselves and focus on the first six letters…and then the volume of the noise and busyness is shut out. Nothing is more "natural" or basic than focusing on the real meaning…CHRISTmas. Linger on that thought for as long as it takes to rekindle where all the joy began. The rest of holiday festivity is WONderful, it makes for a great contrast between celebration and a quiet peace…the kind of peace that drowns out the noise of the world and the hollowness you mention.

    I love the holiday festivity…all of it, every corner, but if it were not for the birth of an infant King, there would be no Christmas. "White Christmas" would never have been made…Oh, now that would be awful! Stockings would never have been hung. No carols that make you feel at peace just by singing them, no Santa legend, no sparkling evergreen tree. Without Jesus, the "holiday" is just a shopping spree and the results offer no lasting or meaningful joy. I wrote more than I intended. I’m for all the wonders of the Christmas Season with THE central figure being, well, central. Merrrrrry Christmas everyone. Shery

  18. Teresa says:

    Thanks for bringing back memories.

    I remember riding the Pink Pig at the old downtown Rich’s store, shopping at the Santa’s Secret Shop and my chorus performing at a lighting of the Great Tree (before it was moved to Lenox). I took my friend’s little girls to ride the Pink Pig @ Lenox…fun…but not quite the same thing. However, Lenox still remains my favorite place to people watch.

  19. Diane Van Horn says:

    Thank you so much for all of your blogs through-out the year. I look forward to them all, but this one really struck a chord with me. I have been not feeling very Christmasy this year. In trying to have a simple Christmas, I kept decorations down to nothing and only sent out a few cards and very little shopping. Christmas was always very fun and exciting when my children were home. Even when I was a single mother with little money, it just seemed to be Christmas when my children were involved. It has been especially rough since my daughter Shannon moved to South Carolina with her Army Husband four years ago. We always enjoyed decorating and baking together. I did fly down to Columbia, SC on December 15th to go with my daughter to a very important doctor appointment. We finally got a referral to a specialist off of the army base for her chronic lyme disease. She was bit by a deer tick over 15 years ago and was never properly diagnosed until almost 2 1/2 years after. The best Christmas present ever was a doctor that finally knows what she is going through and did not tell us we are crazy! She has started IV anti-biotics and I am saying a little prayer that it helps her. We did get a little time to do some shopping and bake some cookies and decorate. I came home on the 20th feeling pretty Christmasy! I can always decorate next year! A very Merry Christmas and Hopeful New Year to you and yours!

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