Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Cleaning

Well, tomorrow is Christmas, which means today is Christmas Eve. We are down to the wire in preparations. All my wrapping is done. I need to label and bow the presents, though I may not get around to bowing. Andy wants Nutella cookies, so we'll make one last batch before Mass this evening. My biggest project today, as every year, is getting the house clean enough for Christmas.

I was talking about this yearly endeavor with some friends of mine, who also partake in this yearly task. Yesterday, the kids stripped the beds so I could wash the sheets- and mattress pad,even. Then I set them to work cleaning their bedrooms so they could be vacuumed. That is the "v" word here in our home, always drawing nervous tears from Emma who is terrified I will suck up a Polly Pocket shoe, never to be seen again. I don't blame her, it's a real possibility. Those shoes are microscopic! The cleaning took 4 hours with all the playing and running around that took place in between my shouts of "You'd better be cleaning up there!".

Another friend of mine was sharing how she was glad she got the toilet cleaned yesterday so she didn't have to do it today and still another friend told how she had to steam clean the carpets because her daughter spilled a cup of milk and didn't want the whole house curdling. Not only that, but she had her kids cleaning their rooms under fear that Santa might not bring new toys to kids who don't take care of their old ones.

Amid all of this, one good friend was looking at us perplexed. "Why is everyone cleaning their homes before Christmas? Is this a Catholic tradition I missed in my RCIA classes. Why do you clean your house before the mess is made on Christmas day?" She was curious and confused.

Here is my response:

"Well, Kathi, hmmm, you got me thinking. I thought everyone cleaned their house like I do before Christmas. Yes, it must be tradition, but I don't know if it's a Catholic one. I can't have a dirty (not the same as messy) house on Christmas and it must be from childhood. It must be part of "making straight the path" so Jesus can enter and not trip on all the crap and see all the dust bunnies (and worse). My mom would always say things like, "Is this house clean enough for the Pope?" (No, it never- NEVER- was with 6 kids in a 3 bedroom apartment!) So that must be where it comes from for me. My house is just this side of "cesspool" most of the year, but on Christmas it ABSOLUTELY must be clean, no matter how much my legs are swelling or sciatica in my back. That kind of drive, for me, can only come from tradition. Too bad it will only last until breakfast the next day when milk and cereal once again begin a committed relationship with my kitchen floors.

By the way, the sheets got washed because Renee had a diaper leak, so I figured that was a sign from God that it was time to wash my poor kids' sheets. (I won't tell you how long it had been since they were last washed, but if I needed prompting from God, that should tell you something.)"

Of course the most important preparation-and it must be said- is preparing our hearts for Jesus. If the house doesn't get cleaned, that's unfortunate, but not critical. Our heart is the home Jesus wants to enter. A clean home can be the outward sign of an inward preparation, or it can be a smokescreen. First things first. In the midst of cleaning, let's be sure our hearts are turned to Him and that all the work we do is for love of Him.

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday, Jesus.