Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holiday Traditions

We have a favorite family tradition. It started with a newlywed who couldn't get herself together enough to plan a meal and plan to shop for a tree on the same day. It has since become our most talked-about, most anticipated, most treasured tradition for the whole Gang. It is the tradition of decorating our family Christmas tree.

Over the years, The Boss has added the element of hiking into the woods to chop down our own tree. Most of the time now, I am home wrapping presents, or out shopping for him. I don't enjoy the trek into the woods. In fact, I actually prefer buying our tree from a local stand that donates its profits to a local charity. For example, the Boy Scouts used to have a great sight right around the corner from our first apartment (there on Simpson St. - you West Shore gals know where I'm talkin' about!) and we always tried to give a little extra toward the charity they were supporting. Anyway . . .

Once the perfect spruce has stood in the garage for enough time to allow the bugs and spiders to shrivel up and die after being sprayed liberally with bug killer, we bring it in and crank up the Christmas music. This year it was Josh Groban's Noel, over and over, with a little James Taylor and Steven Curtis Chapman thrown in for good measure. The Boss strings all the lights, in his meticulous manner, followed by our heavy wooden beads on string. These beads came from our former landlord's beaded seat cover for his car and I re-purposed them because we were broke and I really don't like tinsel or icicles - just not folk-art-y enough for me! We added some red beads that I found on clearance after Christmas and VOILA! A very rustic garland. Finally, once the beads are all nestled on the heaviest boughs, we open the boxes and the reminisces begin. Each of our many ornaments has a story, a memory and a connection - I'm sure your ornaments are no different.

My favorite ornaments are the ones that Tiny Boppa carved for the kids once he retired. Each one represents that child's "it" thing for that year and it is so fun to hear the stories and the "remember when's" that the ornaments evoke. We have Sesame Street faces, Jimmy Neutron characters, Strawberry Shortcake characters, a darling black bear (from the time that LadyBug got up early with Boppa to see a black bear cub rummaging through Boppa's garden), Boppa's truck (when BBE was fascinated with all things "truck!"), and so many more. They are better than a photo album in some ways.

Sometime toward the end of the decorating, I place an order to the nearest Chinese restaurant. When The Boss returns with the food, we shut off all the lights in the house, save the tree. And we have a Chinese-food picnic in front of our tree. Sometimes we just listen to carols while we chow down. Sometimes we watch a beloved Christmas movie. But every time, we laugh, I cry, and we re-connect. It is quite possibly my most favorite day of the whole year - no phone calls, no company, no other family but us. And the beauty of our tree, glowing right in the middle of it all.

*Update: I am so grateful to all of you who weighed in on the great photo debate. I think I'll take the suggestions of a couple of you and include both of the scenes for the letter. And thanks, Thrills, I never thought of framing the fun one for the house - I was too myopically focused on getting this letter planned and concluded!


Episode One said...

I love this post. It brings back all sorts of memories for me too. The tree is huge in my house. When my brother and I were tots, my dad would light it while Andrew and I would untangle and "test" the lights to make sure they worked. Now a days Andrew and I string the tree over a drink (or two!), and my mother spends at least the following three days rearranging the ornaments until they are in their rightful place...I loved this one. Thanks for this.

Heidi @ GGIP said...

Great tradition. I love Chinese food.

Classic MaMa said...

I agree, the ornaments are like a photo album. Scarlett likes it when we go over my parent's house to decorate their tree. She always asks the same questions about the same ornaments: "What this when Uncle Brother Bear...?"

Natalie said...

It's amazing how they remember the tiniest details about the stories they were told from year to year.