In a few short days, it’ll be Christmas. That’s hard to believe, since the decorations went up in the stores shortly after Labor Day so it feels as if it’s been Christmas for months. In truth, it only starts to feel like Christmas for me around the fifteenth of December, which also happens to be my birthday.
When I grew up, I was always made aware that since Christmas was just ten days away from my birthday, we’d just make this a combo day. What this meant was that my birthday was a bit slighted, what with the impending Christmas bounty and revelry only a few days away. I may have resented this when I was little, back when the whole kid world revolved around birthdays, but I grew to like it. I still prefer not to make a big deal out of my birthday, but it does explain why I use the fifteenth as my personal kick-off to Christmas. It’s ingrained in me to gear up right around then.
Back then, the tree went up on the weekend nearest the fifteenth, the cardboard fireplace (with the orange seven watt light bulb that illuminated the realistic cardboard flames) went on the back wall and the garland was wrapped around the railing. The backside of the front door was already covered with Christmas cards, as they would arrive daily, seemingly by the dozen. Mom made cookies and of course, there was fudge. Fudge was as common as decorative ashtrays and galoshes back then, and if a house lacked a plate of fudge on the coffee table, it may as well have been without electricity or plumbing. By the sixteenth or so, we were in full-blown holiday mode, which lasted until New Year’s Day when it all came down. By then, the floor had more needles than the tree and it was best to get it outside before it shot up into flames. It should be noted that our Christmas tree stand did not hold water, so the poor dissected thing didn’t have a prayer of lasting longer than two weeks.
These days, we start the decorations a little earlier. We usually cut down the tree right after Thanksgiving, although this year was a little later. It’s been up, decorated and watered daily since the seventh. In addition to that, Mrs. G. has fussed with the house decorations, swearing again that this will be the last year she does it. I never believe her. It looks so nice when she’s done, and she spends hours tweaking this and that until it is perfect—and then it gets tweaked again. Right now, we’re simply taking it all in and reminiscing over the various ornaments and their significance, many of them collected during vacations or received as gifts—including the Popsicle stick reindeer head with one missing eye from our daughter’s second grade art class. There are also a few glass bulbs on the tree that belonged to my mother. I have no idea how old they are, but they’ve been around for at least half of a century.
On Christmas morning, I’ll get up and look around and likely think about Christmases past when our daughter would bounce out of her bedroom and head straight to the tree to see what Santa had left for her. Those years slipped away quickly, and Christmas morning is a lot quieter these days. What’s happening now is, in some ways, just as nice as the days forward and back of Christmas day are now filled with parties and get-togethers and visits. Kids are now adults, some with children of their own and we’ll get to see most of them. Christmas is much more than one day now, and each one of them is filled with joy.
As for my birthday, when the invitations for our annual Christmas open house were going out (digitally, of course) my daughter called to ask why I didn’t add something about my birthday. “You’re turning sixty. That’s kind of a big deal,” she said. She was right, of course, so it’ll be sort of a combo thing and I’m more than OK with that. Takes the light off of me.
I’ll be taking a break from the keyboard until the new year, since there never seems to be enough time right now to sit and write something. If you’re hankering for something to read, the archives are rich with essays. I hear some of them are even good.
So from our household to yours, Merry Christmas to all and a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!