It’s that time again! Time to dig out the ornaments, unearth the endless strings of lights (each with exactly one bad bulb in it), and root through the storage boxes in search of caroling snowmen and handmade stockings! I have, once again, won the Christmas decorating showdown!
It starts every year on the first of November. Just when everyone else is groaning over the sudden appearance of Christmas trees at Walmart–before the Halloween candy is even put on clearance–I start to feel a little tingle in my skin and a lightness to my step, signaling the rush of cinnamon-scented holiday hormones into my system. I hear those sleigh bells jingling–ring-ting-tingling, too–and I get out my scarf and mittens, even if it’s still sixty degrees outside. I find myself humming “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” as I do the grocery shopping, and the endless lists of what to buy for whom pleasantly consume my waking thoughts. I buy ingredients for pounds of homemade peanut butter fudge and gallons of spiced cider, and I light enough candles to make the apartment smell like pine trees and gingerbread until next summer. I prod Katie to start her letter to Santa, a missive which I know from experience will be written, edited, and rewritten several times before it reaches its final destination in my file of Christmas memorabilia.
And I start to work on Paul.
Let me start by saying that I am not crazy. Clearly, the idea of putting up Christmas decorations before Halloween is patently ridiculous.
But what’s wrong with starting in November? Christmas isn’t just a holiday, after all; it’s a season. I believe, of course, that the ideals of love, family, giving, and joy are meant to saturate our lives throughout the year. But for a couple of months every year, Hallmark and Toys ‘R’ Us happily join in on the fun–shouldn’t that fun start as soon as possible?
Not long after we were married, I discovered that Paul, like many others, doesn’t feel a need to decorate for Christmas until the weekend after Thanksgiving. Very logical. Very reasonable. Very sensible.
The woman he married, on the other hand, is really none of those things. I want Christmas–and the earlier the better!
The first time I got Paul to budge on his holiday decorating timetable was in 1998, when I was (extremely) pregnant with Katie. When I announced on the first weekend of November that I intended to decorate the house for Christmas that Saturday, Paul didn’t protest, possibly out of fear of provoking a 200-pound woman with buckets of progesterone coursing wildly through her veins. We invited some friends over, played Christmas CDs, and drank mulled cider while I directed the decking of the halls from my very comfortable rocker. It was wonderful.
Since that year, we’ve been back-and-forth on the whole holiday decorating issue, both of us compromising and capitulating in turn when the holiday approaches. As October gives way to November, we each jot our respective talking points down on notecards and get ready to enter the fray.
It’s not just a matter of throwing some decorations up, of course. If that were all, I could drag out the boxes and shower jingle bells around the place whenever I liked. No, I want the event. The hot-cocoa-drinking, carol-singing, popcorn-stringing family fun night of Official Christmas Spirit. I want to gather around in warm sweaters and slippered feet to watch the deeply traditional Assembling of the Tree (don’t get me started on the “fake tree vs. real tree” debate–we lived in the heart of Oregon timber country when we bought it and had to beat back a lynch mob to even get it out of the store.) I want to videotape while my kids hang ornaments and talk about where and when we got each one. I want to lovingly place my decorative snowmen and Santas on the shelves and string the holly garland over the window. I want to hang the Christmas stockings I made myself high on the wall, where they will oversee the Christmas season in all their stately, crookedly-stitched glory. I want to turn the lights off in anticipation of the moment Paul will flip the switch and bathe the living room in the soft, warm lights of the tree, holding Katie up so she can put the star on the top like she’s been doing since she was old enough to hold it. I want to bask in the glow of Christmas tradition and stretch the most delicious of holidays out for as long as possible, so I can savor it through the rest of the year.
It occurs to me, as I write this, that our merry tussling over Christmas decorating has become a sort of family tradition in itself, a sweet-spirited inside joke that only adds to the laughter and the fun of the season.
So think of us this Friday, November 18th, when our little corner of Idaho will be decorating for Christmas. Drop by, if you like. Come for the crazy people and stay for the goodies. I’m sure there will be plenty of hot cocoa.