Being a person who rebels in very small ways, it should be expected that I have a few quirks around the holidays. There’s such rich territory for small rebellion! Let’s list them, shall we?
Santa: we don’t “do” Santa, in general, but my husband will play St Nicholas, Father Christmas, Babo Natali, etc this seasons and for years to come, because that’s who he is. And I support that.
Cards: what started off as “We’ll make our own (which was admittedly fun) and share something unique each year” moved into “I never get them out on time and Happy February cards make less sense” moved into “major stressor at the holidays and I’m not enjoying anything else,” so I… deleted them. Yep, I don’t send out Christmas cards. Or a Christmas letter. Those people we love already know how things are going, and I call or email to send a Christmas greeting. I’m not “hardcore” in this practice; should my children wish to create and send greetings, I’m 100% behind that. And we do toy with snarky Christmas update letters just for the practice with being wry.
Dinner: growing up, every year my wonderful mother unloaded the china cabinet to give everything a scrub in time for a fancy traditional dinner. Being a child who loved Fancy and Elegant (which was in pretty short supply with five younger brothers), I helped. And every year, my wonderful father suggested that we skip a fancy meal this year and just have pizza on paper plates, with root beer, and watch movies instead. In my own home, we have “fancy dinner” several times a month on Sundays (or random Thursdays, just for fun), as well as multiple Fancy Tea Parties as needed, so we don’t require a thrice-yearly Airing of the Good Plates. And for Christmas dinner, we’re having Party Food: sliced ham, tasty rolls, garlic chevre, good crackers, sliced cheeses, raw fruits and veggies, and probably some cayenne wings, too. On paper plates. With root beer.
Decorations: by the time we realize it’s close enough to be decent putting up lights, it’s well below zero, and none of the adults in the family are going to climb the eaves. So we rarely do more than lights inside the windows and around the door frame. I don’t have entire sets of seasonal decor that show up at Thanksgiving. I own not a single “holiday” collection, unless you count all my red books. For some reason, I have a high proportion of books with red spines. Does it count as a collection if it’s entirely unintentional?
The Tree is the one holiday tradition I do embrace fully. It appeals to me on so many levels.
Olfactorily, I love the smell of pines and firs! I admit to squidging the leaves of rosemary as I walk through a plant nursery, so yes, I squidge my tree pretty flagrantly the whole time it’s in the house, and a little bit after.
Visually, it’s just so pretty!
And, an indoor tree is really quite perfect for an avid indoors-woman such as myself. We buy ours from a safe, level, in-town lot, so no risk of injury in The Nature there.
A Christmas tree gives me a seasonal outlet for one of my little “quirks”: tinsel. It has to be silver, and it has to go on one strand at a time. I’ve been this way since childhood. My parents, being kind people, let me indulge, and didn’t make too big a deal of it. As a mother myself, I am… blessed… with at least one child (she’s nearly five now) who thinks it’s hilarious to go around behind me, double-stacking the tinsel, just to watch me twitch. After he’s done laughing, my Tall, Dark, and Slightly Neanderthal husband generally tells them to stop picking on their mother, at least until the next day.
(I’m not the only one with tree quirks, you know. My very best friend in college had his own. I think he knew where every single one of his ornaments must be placed. I liked to move them around a bit, just to see if he’d notice (he always did, and moved them back.) Hey, just because I own a few quirks, that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily compassionate toward others’ quirks.)
(And look at me go, with my little nested parenthetical comments. My high school English teacher, Mr W, is probably spinning in his recliner right about now. He tried. He really did. I still get a bit Victorian with the nested stuff, and italics. But, he tried.)
Also in college: my mother grew up in the Oregon Coast Range, and has a particular fondness for Noble Firs. The first year I did not come home at all for Christmas, because I had to work through the break, my mother brought Christmas to me, including a 12″ tall Noble Fir seedling that she cut (with scissors) from my grandfather’s portion of the mountain. It was… well, small seems a bit generous to describe the actual size of the “tree.” We duct-taped it to a quart fruit jar of water, and put it on my windowsill. I couldn’t hang anything but tinsel on it; even mini candy canes weighed down the branches to the point of collapse. It was possibly the most pathetic Charlie Brown tree you’ve ever seen, but it smelled right, and it meant that my mom loves me.
When my Beloved and I first married, we lived in a small apartment. Since he had a sizable collection of sizable furniture (one of the benefits of marrying a man in his early 30s: good chance he has more stuff than 21-year-old you), we didn’t have a lot of space for a tree. We, however, are cunning and clever. We set up half the tree, and placed it flat against the balcony wall. Perfection. On other occasions, we set up about two-thirds of a tree, and put that baby in the corner.
The year we added The Boy to the mix, Christmas was a bit more tight, funds-wise, than usual. Our fake tree was dying a slow and dismal death. It’s never a good sign when the faux fir drops more needles than a cut dead one. Determined to have a fun time in poverty, we went on a hunt for loose change in the house, determined that we’d go to the tree farm down the highway, and buy however much tree we could with the coins secreted about our own property. Turns out, our little Eldest was a bit of a magpie when it came to shiny coins. We found $18.50 in pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters, and bought a tree nearly 7 feet tall.
I’m not stuck on either live or fake trees; we go back and forth, depending on our needs. When we discovered that our Spicy child was a bit of a “taste everything” baby, we went back to live. I’d rather have her munching on real balsam than on plastic. Ditto this year; our toddler tastes everything, and is not above biting. I have the chunks out of my desk, the bookcase, several Barbie feet, and the windowsill to prove it. If Big Science cares to figure out a way to enhance indoor paint with vitamins and minerals, I’d have a well-nourished kid.
Today, we’re off to get this year’s tree. We’ll visit a well-lit, flat, paved-and-salted lot, because I’m not up for rugged in any way this year. We’re about a week late, as we’ve been waiting for my Beloved’s shoulder to feel better. That’s not happening, so I’m counting on my two oldest Minions to do the hefting and toting between cashier and car, car and house.
We’ll spend the late morning and early afternoon making ornaments, and getting things all set up. And when we go away in the early evening, and come back in the later evening, the house will smell like all the trees I have known, and it will be Christmas.