I was thinking about all the things I do in the run up to Christmas – some that aren’t all that important and some that without would make the holiday completely different. The latter are the things I’m required to do each and every year to make it Christmas at my house.
Decorations – I have big house and holiday decorating started back as far as I can remember (I grew up here). Every year, I cover a side table with a red holiday tablecloth that has candy canes on it with nursery rhyme characters I’ve had since I was 6. I remember them as one of the first decorations I was allowed to participate in, other than the tree trimming. Otherwise, everything was too fragile, or required a ladder I couldn’t climb. I set up those characters, Mary with her Little Lamb, Little Bo Peep and her lost sheep, Jack and Jill with a pail of water and Mary, Mary quite contrary along side a small garden of bluebells, growing just fine. I would spend hours acting out the rhymes, placing the little characters just so. Getting Jack and Jill to both hold the pail remains a challenge since these are ceramic figures, frozen in painted glaze. Every year, I still do this same ritual, though I don’t have hours to spend anymore.
On the fireplace mantle, the nativity scene goes up every year. The three wise men, the animals from the barn, the peasants, the little man with a bagpipe playing, cast intricate shadows on the wall from the string of lights set beneath them and then covered with green spray-painted cotton balls. That I do spend hours on, getting the shadows just right. On the other side of the barn (an old birdhouse with straw from the ‘real’ barn sprinkled inside) there’s the heavenly host. My mother collected ceramic angels, from all the different birth months of her children. One day, my sister and I walked into an antique store and found the same style of angels, and quickly bought them for the birth months of my two kids. We were so happy to be able to pass on that tradition to the next generation.
Another mantle gets the Santa Clause mugs and the hall gets the most modern addition to our yearly decorating traditions, the Star Trek tree. Hallmark started making Star Trek ornaments years ago. All the Captains. Most of the original crew of both the original series and the Next Generation. Every variety of Enterprise ship and shuttlecraft, as well as the ship of the dreaded Borg. Their message – We are the Borg. Happy Holidays. Resistance is futile. Worf, from ST-NG speaks in Klingon. Spock suggests you live long and prosper. All the speaking ornaments go off simultaneously, which is the best part. I have a ‘real’ communicator that when activated gives me messages from Captain Kirk. The Star Trek Tree is my favorite new tradition.
The most important ones, however, don’t involve shiny anything. They are the heart of the holidays, with family and friends together. Each Christmas Eve, we set out cookies and milk for Santa. We hang the stockings with care by the fire, and we read from a very old copy of The Night Before Christmas before my adult children head up the stairs for bed, wondering still what might end up in their Christmas stocking the next morning. I still stay up late making the Yankee Clipper Coffeecake from a recipe by Betty Crocker. The kids still get up earlier than you’d think. They still have to wait until I ring the bell, so I can be sure everything is just so for the presentation of presents. Some traditions we are never too old for.
From my family to yours, may you have a joyous Holiday Season. Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night.