Murphy’s Law of decorating a Christmas tree should say “No matter how many strands of lights that you used last year and extra strands that you purchased at the after-Christmas sales, you will be one strand short when decorating this year.”
We begin the transition from the usual home decorations to the holidays around Halloween. Before going to the Christmas directions, we pull out the box of Fall decorations, with table runners, glass pumpkins, etc. This one box is followed by half a dozen more boxes the weekend before Thanksgiving. These can be staged in the garage until the weekend after Thanksgiving. Usually by then family and guests have returned to their homes, providing us with a day or two for the transformation.
Two holiday decorating tasks that I can accomplish early, are hanging the outdoor lights around the deck, and switching out the CD juke box. Hanging the lights requires a dry, warmer day without wind. By Thanksgiving time, such days may be scarce. But, even if the lights are up early in November, we leave them unplugged until the season. Removing 300 CD’s and placing them in the correct cases, can take an hour or more. Sorting out the 150 or so holiday CD’s, deciding the order, putting them into the CD player, and then setting up various “sets” (e.g. classical, traditional-folk, pop-rock, country-bluegrass, etc.) can take another couple of hours. Again, this can be set up early, but not played until the season.
A benefit of holiday decorating is that most surfaces get cleared off once each year. The draw back of holiday decorating is that you realize that you should clean all those surfaces. If you procrastinate, you face the same opportunity-dilemma in January when the decorations return to the boxes. So, your options are to clean everything twice per year, clean them before or after, or ignore the whole situation, in which case these sentences make no sense. Once we determine how much cleaning we will do, I beging to assemble the Christmas Tree.
We used to have live trees at our home in town. Then, we purchased living trees, which we hauled out to the cabin for several years to plant. Trying to plant a balled-and-burlapped tree in January when the ground is frozen for 12”, and otherwise just rocks anyway, is fool’s work. We have a couple of those trees growing a dozen or so years later. But, we went for plastic bristles on wires ten or so years ago. I assemble. Linda fluffs the branches. I thread the lights. Linda keeps fluffing the branches. I calculate how many additional strands of lights I will need to complete the tree. Linda finishes fluffing the branches. By this time, the sun is down, the lights illuminate the deck, the CD player sets the pace, and we are ready for a glass of wine.
We also have a dozen or so Arbor Day blue spruce pines, which we planted 15 years ago. They are nearly shoulder height now (with roots down some fatastic depth for how little they grow every year). These are near our driveway entrance, and Linda decorates them for our neighbors to enjoy as they drive in and out.
After carrying the boxes back to the garage for temporary storage, we open the boxes of ornaments. Linda has ornaments from various eras of her life, with memories of friends who gave them to her, or hand made ones she from her single years. I have ornaments painted by former patients in therapy groups. Linda has the Twelve Days of Christmas, snowflakes, and cross-stitched mice. I have a Black Santa and a Three-Legged Camel.
The Black Santa is not African American, but really black with an orange suit, ho, ho, ho… I recall a different craft group when a patient came in very angrily stating, “This has got to be the fucking stupidest class! Painting god-damned stupid Christmas ornaments!”, to which our dear, elderly volunteer smiled at her and said, “Why don’t you painted the god-damned ugliest Santa you can?” Whew, we all had a good laugh and enjoyed the rest of the session. I save a few tree topper ornaments (e.g. air planes, birds…) to put at the top of the tree the next week after I have a chance to purchase and hang enough more strands of lights.
In addition to the main tree upstairs, Linda sets up a smaller tree downstairs. This tree is for her White House ornaments, which her friend, Emma, has been giving her every year for a couple of decades. Come, browse, and check your presidential history knowledge.
Bella, Tippy, and Maggie get stockings inside. Maggie came inside once, but decided that this was way to confining for her spirit. Bella and Tippy usually get a Santa, reign deer, or elf toys. Santa is the only one that did not get disemboweled last year. While we hang the ornaments, they sleep or chew away on their dog treats.
We have a couple of nativity settings from different relatives over the years. I am in the camp that says that baby Jesus should not show up until Christmas Day and the wise men until 12th night. I tried to impose this belief system on the nativity at work one year. It is now a challenge to see if I can steal baby Jesus for the seasons, and hide a frog in the Christmas tree at work. (Ha, I snuck into the front office earlier this week and put Baby Jesus in an inter-office envelop addressed to me for safe keeping until Christmas!)
Other accessories of the season include table settings, serving dishes, and coffee mugs with seasonal prints. We lean toward winter themes, rather than specific Christmas images. This allows us to use our Winter Greetings settings until the snow thaws.
Come January, after 12th Night, the boxes come back out from the garage, and the process goes into reverse. The ornaments and lights come off the tree, the Holy Family and Wise Men get wrapped up, the branches of the tree are carefully sorted by size for easy reassembling next year, the CD’s are swapped back out, and the surfaces get a dusting before picture and other momentoes return to their places. I rationalize that it is too cold to take down the outdoor lights, so that we can enjoy the colorful display through the cold winter nights.