I'm still struggling a bit with really feeling Christmasy. I mailed my cards today, with the traditional Christmas letter for those who aren't up on some of the latest family news. The cards we've gotten are hanging above the fireplace, making a banner between the stockings hung to each side. Various handmade Christmas things I've been given as gifts over the years sit on various surfaces around the living room. And, with less than a week to spare before the arrival of the Big Day, we did put up a Christmas tree following the traditional argument between the sons over which one to choose at the tree place.
Decorating the tree has become less of a big deal over the years, as the sons have grown. This year, the husband was jet-lagged and slept soundly on the couch while I strung the lights on the tree. He did wake up when I yelled to the sons who were upstairs that I was starting to hang the ornaments just in case they wanted to help. They did, and each hung some ornaments that are special to them. These included two that they each made in the first grade they attended at a local religiously affiliated school. (You'd never see Christmas-themed costumes in a public school around here.) Younger son is no longer the angel he once was, though older son is still known to wield a stick from time to time. When the husband and I first got married, he started stitching a star on plastic needlepoint canvas for the top of our family tree. His mother came to visit, saw it lying there, and finished it for him. He was a bit perturbed about it at the time, but I don't think it bothers him now. At some point when the sons were little, older son realized that one of their stuffed primates could sit atop the tree thanks to a zippered opening on its back. To this day, each year, the Christmas ape sits atop the tree and wears the star as a hat. As for the tree in all its glory, it's far from a designer tree given that most of the ornaments are handmade, many by small children. There's a story behind almost every one. I'm embarrassed to say that the pile of presents under the tree does not constitute all that we have. Some of the sons' presents to their father are too large to put in the small corner allotted to the tree, so they're sitting in the foyer. We'll pull them into the living room to be opened on Christmas morning.
Other Christmas traditions here include the Christmas Eve service at the church some friends attend. That comes after the Christmas Eve dinner that I have do nothing for. Some years, it's take-out Chinese; other years, the husband and sons cook. Before we leave for church, I'll make a double batch of dough for cinnamon rolls. The dough will do its first rising overnight in the refrigerator. On Christmas morning, the sons will sleep in while I get the rolls rolled, sugared, cinnamoned, and otherwise ready for the second rising. We'll open presents while the rolls rise and bake. The rolls will have to last everyone until dinner, though I typically serve Christmas dinner in the late afternoon. Most years, I manage to fit in a soak in a bubble bath with one of the books I get as gifts. The other tradition is the male-oriented movie that I annually present to "the testosterone trio." They already know that this year it's the remake of "The A Team." The sons and I saw it in the theater; now it's the husband's turn to experience the mayhem. How can you not like a movie that contains the line "overkill is under-rated"?
After Christmas Day, the tree stays up until New Year's Day. I'm usually the one taking the ornaments and lights off it and packing them up for next year. The husband cleans up the needles the tree leaves where it stood and on its way out the door. The sons are all too happy each year to hack the tree apart with whatever sharp implements they fancy at the time. Some of our traditions are a bit far up on the banks of the mainstream, but they're just that--our traditions--and what makes this holiday one I genuinely treasure year after year after year. If you celebrate it, Merry Christmas! If you observe another winter holiday, Happy Holidays!