I used to wait until the 1st or 2nd week of December, at the least, to do the decorations on my home. This was something that started years before, when I figured we needed to recover from the event that was, every year, the Thanksgiving holiday.
It’s not that I fought the commercialization of Christmas – though I hated that the stores were playing Christmas carols right after Halloween. It wasn’t even laziness. I inevitably had a house filled with people – my family, my wife’s family whatever. If they weren’t in my house I was at theirs. If my family, travel was involved. If my wife’s family, there’s always the stress of being with family and such.
Yet things changed.
2011, after my wife passed away, Christmas was just . . . weird. That’s right, I said weird. I didn’t know how to get everything alone, decorate the house, none of it. Christmas was always a huge holiday for me growing up, I loved it, and it seemed like some of that magic had been stolen away. It had drifted somehow. There was a part of me, though, a part of my kids too, that wouldn’t let it go without a fight.
So when I got my feet things changed.
We have an artificial tree. I didn’t want to keep that up. If that was the way things were then we would have it different. The way things are, then, is that we go get a real tree. Since my daughter had headed off to college, I went the weekend of Thanksgiving and we got that tree.
My wife had been a superb decorator. It was far more than what I could or would have done. Sometimes I bristled under the constraints, like limits on lights or what lights or how to put up the lights. She also made gorgeous tree decorations and we were only allowed to use those.
But when we were without her I realized we had boxes filled with decorations that she had made, my kids had made . . . even I had made. We’d softened that “annual style” idea to one that included many of those before my wife passed away. Now that it was my house only . . . the themes kind of drifted. It wasn’t a nostalgic theme, it was putting the ornaments on we wanted to put on the tree. As a result the house and the tree are a hodgepodge. So is my house. That way it matches perfectly our personalities, the broken, bent, re-shaped style that we all have. That’s our decoration, too.
I got new lights and that same weekend every year we put them on the house. My son, who is afraid of heights, started coming up on the roof and helping me install them. We put reindeer on the lawn. I put garland on the porch.
It’s an all-day event, with the tree, the house, all of it.
Certainly, you could call them new traditions. It wasn’t intentionally shutting out the old ones. It was merging the new with the old. I had lost a lot . . . I wasn’t going to lose Christmas.
This year we did it again. A huge tree – bigger than I wanted, but then I am a sucker for Christmas. I put the lights up, added some to another tree, and worried not one lick about if it was too much. It wasn’t. I already have some presents, too.
We took what was an old set of traditions, ones that could have hurt terribly, and made them our own. Re-shaping the ideas into ones that match our current lives, states of mind, and feelings. That’s not a bad thing, it was a good thing.
They are new traditions, and we never lost the magic that Christmas brings as a result. That’s what was – if you’ll excuse the cheesy line – so magical about it all.