by Brittany Stillwell

One of my favorite aspects of the Christmas and Advent season is using my grandmother’s Christmas dishes. She died when I was 8, so a lot of what I know about her is fragments of memories cobbled together with family stories and lore. There is a lot I could say about my Memaw, but one part of her legacy that lives on is her extraordinary gift of hospitality. Memaw was the hostess with the absolute mostess. To this day, I still have folks telling me about my Memaw’s parties and cooking. Let’s just say, her dishes that I use at Christmas weren’t even her fanciest set of Christmas dishes—that’s how much she entertained. These are her everyday Christmas dishes. And, I didn’t want the fancy ones… I wanted the everyday ones—the ones that got the most love, the ones that show a little wear and tear.  

And I love them. I love entertaining with them at Christmas; I hope I got just a fraction of her hospitality. But mostly, I love the quiet of the early morning, sitting in front of my Advent wreath and my Christmas tree with my cup of coffee. These coffee cups have seen me through a lot and I can only imagine what they went through with Memaw. Did she drink coffee out of her cup in front of the tree like I do—content to just be before the start of a busy day? Did she drink out of them hurriedly, like I sometimes have to, as she prepared to dash to the next thing? Did tears fall into those cups, as mine have, as she mourned the loss of those who would no longer be at the Christmas table? 

Those Christmas dishes, for the most part, are a constant in my life. As long as my Christmas decorations are with me, those dishes will get used. It’s comforting to know that in all forms of celebration and grief and everything in between those dishes are there. 

I wonder if that is what joy is like: a constant companion in all of life’s ups and downs, a little bit special but mostly ordinary, intended for everyday use and showing a little wear and tear. 

When I fill up my Christmas coffee cup and sit in front of my Advent wreath, somehow that cup manages to hold all the pain and all the laughter, all the hope and all the unknown, for me, for everyone who has had coffee out of that cup before me, and for everyone who will. Joy is an elusive little booger—hard to describe and even harder to explain, but I’d like to think that somehow, when I sit in front of my tree with a Christmas cup of coffee, I’m having a cup of joy with breakfast.

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