Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

My daughter walked into the den, turned around, walked out, and then leveled the accusation.

“Is that the Christmas tree?”

She was referring to the small, live evergreen treelet in the plastic pot sitting on the fireplace hearth. It stands about as tall as our dog, who is not that big; it is strewn with a string of LED lights and has a red velvet bow on the top. Its only festooning is a small, white, fuzzy elephant ornament.

“I don’t think that counts as an actual Christmas tree,” she said.

But it is green and has lights and, unlike the very large, pre-lit artificial tree that’s still in the basement of the other house, it smells like Christmas.

This is the year of the little Christmas. Not, mind you, the year of little Christmas, for that would suggest weary, dwindled and almost no celebration. Instead, this will be the year of the little Christmas, an intentional downsizing of the material part of things – a celebration less bedazzled but no less heartfelt.

Here’s how I decorated: bought the little tree, bought two little strands of lights that are powered by a battery pack, wrapped those around the tree. Above the hearth and hanging from the mantle is a garland of metal flags that spell Christmas. I added a brown string of tiny LED lights, also fed by a battery. On the barn door leading to the den I hung a wild and unruly wreath of live Norway spruce branches. I made it myself because I couldn’t find one. I thought about adding a bow, but didn’t.

On the dining room table is a red runner. The centerpiece is a fat candle, some greenery and a big, glittery woodland creature. I pull it out of the box every year at this time and we offer opinions about what it is. Last year we settled on a cross between a porcupine and an armadillo. This year we’re calling it a hedgehog.

And that is all the decorating I did.

This is the first Christmas at this smaller house. All those years in the big, old Victorian, the decorating took days of shopping and hours of setting up. The house seemed to call for it, as did both kids. When they were younger we had to pave the way for Santa Claus. Every horizontal space had something to beckon him and the Christmas spirit. The front door wreath was researched, shopped for and, late into a night sometime after Thanksgiving, assembled at the dining room table using dried branches and velvet ribbon and glue sticks. For days after, my fingers were red from where I burned myself with the hot glue gun.

I suppose we could have done the same thing at this smaller house. Size doesn’t matter when it comes to holiday decorating. But this simpler space seemed to call for less, rather than more of the same.

My esthetic has always been to fill spaces with beautiful things, and there have been moments these past weeks when I’ve looked at that little tree and thought, no, let’s get the big one over here.

But I’ve resisted. Now that the kids are adults, they get more expensive presents, and there will be fewer gifts under the tree. I don’t miss the shopping. In fact, there are few things on my calendar this whole season. I look forward to reading a book, night after night, sitting in the quiet glow of that little tree.

I know this is just a lull in the holiday action. Someday there will be grandchildren, and I’ll fire up the glue gun and the halls will get bedecked again. I look forward to that.

But for now, we’ll have our Little Christmas. Little, yes, but merry as ever.

Beth Dolinar can be reached at

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!

Thank you for reading!

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading. If you have a subscription, please Log In.