Do you plan your decorations well before Thanksgiving and then haul out the boxes of ornaments and lights, tinsel, and a manger scene, Santa's and snowmen instead of charging out on Black Friday?
Is your house “the One” everyone slows down to oohh and aahh as they drive by?
Is purchasing The Tree (or maybe hiking through the woods to find it yourself) part of your Christmas tradition?
My mom shopped for gifts all year long so she did not charge out on Black Friday. And, while having lights up outside was part of their tradition, it was never so spectacular people slowed down or stopped to stare.
My dad was Very particular about the Christmas tree (size, shape, and as his income grew they had to be Noble firs). My mom was Very particular about how the lights looked and where every ornament hung. Together they created magical trees that still light my memory.
While they did not live long enough for the inflated Santa, snowman, reindeer, Grinch, etc. I remember my dad climbing the ladder every Thanksgiving weekend to put the lights up along the gutters and the peak over the garage. He also draped cedar boughs along the deck railing with red ribbon bows at regular intervals – well, the bow part was my mom’s job.
Several months earlier mom would make a white fruit cake that people asked for. It needed to ‘age’ which was why she started that baking earlier. By the time my dad was putting up lights, my mom would be baking sugar cookies that we’d all decorate as well as Pfeffernusse (a German spice cookie), spritz cookies, Russian tea cookies, a short bread people fought over, and a cookie I can only remember by the name of “linoleum cookie” (it was lightly spiced dough, cut out with a round cookie cutter, and three sliced almonds decorated the center). It was kept in a tin with a piece of apple so it would stay soft. One of my dad’s favorites (he got his own stash of short bread and seldom shared) was another one whose name escapes me. It was great for dunking in coffee and had an anise flavor. Mom had a special rolling pin with designs cut into it and would roll it over the dough to make the impressions.
Memories like these bring a smile to my face and joy to my heart.
When my grandchildren were younger, I made the effort to replicate many of my family traditions. I still have boxes of Christmas decorations I inherited when my parents’ died. Even though I’ve gone through them and passed out many – the ones I still have remain wrapped and stored year after year.
Sometime this week my granddaughter will bring several bins up from the basement and we’ll get out my collection of trees (glass, pottery, fabric, wood). We’ll clear off the dining room table and set them up. Around the rest of the house, we’ll set the Santa Claus’ I’ve picked up over the years. An old string of Santa lights across the window and a new string of lights on the mantle, a bouquet or two of greens and holly will add a festive air.
On Solstice I’ll spend time with friends although I don’t stay up until dawn. I’m doing well if I make it to midnight.
I started this post with questions…not so much to learn your answers as to have a starting point on reflecting about this time of the year. For people of many faiths from Samhain/All Hallow’s Eve/Halloween through New Year’s Day is a special time with family, to celebrate their spiritual traditions, to reflect on this year and look forward to next.
When you think about 2013, what memories bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart?
When you think about 2014, what do you see? More time with family? Becoming published? Travel to a special place? Retirement? A job that you look forward to doing each day? Buying or selling a home?
Whatever you see, remember to focus on what you want, what that will look like and feel life in your daily life. There is a difference between “wishing” for something and “focusing” on the same thing.
May you find joy and happiness for at least a part of each day in 2014.
© 2013 by Judith Ashley