Thursday, December 18, 2014

On Holiday Decorations

Make you house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table!
People look East, and sing today.
Love, the Lord, is on the way!
-- Traditional English Carol

For me, few things reflect the joy of the Christmas Season like the decorations and the traditions behind them. Each year, I am reminded that, if such a thing is possible, we have far too many ornaments for our house and modest tree. I am also reminded that we no longer have children at home to help put them up or take them down, or to play with delight under the tree on Christmas morning. 

Several years ago, we went from a floor-standing to a table tree. There have even been times like last year that we didn't drag them out and put them up. Last year was one such year.

This year is different. This year the decorations are out and in their appointed places. Opening the crates and boxes, taking out and placing the various objects was like greeting an old friend.

The creche, lovingly molded and painted by my mother in law, has been lovingly unpacked and set in a position of honor in the living room. She gave it to us so our children would have a nativity set.

Santa Claus in his dirigible has assumed his place of honor on the tree, as he has every year since my Dad was a boy. In his jaunty red hat and robe, carrying a fresh Christmas tree, this particular Santa has amused more than three generations. Over time, his robe has lost some of its luster and the dirigible has faded from white to tattle-tale grey, but he shows up every year to grace us with his unique Christmas presence. Hopefully, he will continue to do so for at least a hundred years more.

And so it is with other decorations -- the glass peach, complete with fuzz, from my mother's tree, balls from my wife's girlhood trees, objects from our children' childhood. Each carries its own treasured memories of good times with family. 

How do you decorate for Christmas?

Which decorations trigger pleasant memories for you?

What are your Christmas traditions?

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Wonder of Anticipation

Face it.

Late November and early December can be pretty dismal. This was true in Maryland where I grew up and remains true in Virginia where I live today. Daylight is scarce as days grow shorter. Sunlight, though brilliant in pale beauty is too often pre-empted by purple clouds scudding across the sky before a gusty and biting wind. Rain and drizzle hit one's face with the force of frozen BBs. A lingering chill sinks into one's bones.

The chief urge is to hibernate.

When I was a child, the end of November was marked with excitement and December with anticipation. The chief emotion was impatience. Santa Claus was coming to town!

The anticipation always began the day after thanksgiving when the mailman delivered the Wishbook. The Wishbook was a profusely illustrated one-inch thick listing Sears and Roebuck's Christmas and seasonal merchandise. Half of the pages were given to clothes and other grown-up stuff. The second half was devoted entirely to toys and games for kids of all ages.

Anticipation shifted to high gear as my sisters and I eagerly examined the kids' section page by page and dreamed of the fun it would be to play with this, that, or the other item. Pages were first scanned for items of interest, and then examined in detail to identify the one special item we absolutely had to have and which remained our top choice until we turned the page and were confronted by the next gallery of wonder.

We spent hours spread out on the floor with the catalog open before us, anticipating the fun. Our imaginations danced from item to item as we dreamed how we would play with this toy or that.

We compiled list upon list of what we wanted and in which order of importance. We annotated our lists with the page numbers so Santa could see for himself what we wanted. The lists made yesterday were seldom the same as the ones made today, but that was alright. Each list was a snapshot in time of where our imagination had carried us.

And behind it all, the song kept running through our heads "He's making a list, and checking it twice. He's going to find out who's naughty and nice. Santa Claus is coming to town!" And we all tried, some of us harder than others, to be extra special nice.

And judging by the things we found under the tree on Christmas Morning, we were.

For us, the days of November and December were anything but dismal. For us, these cold, raw, and gray days were filled with anticipation of great and wonderful things. For us, half of the fun of Christmas was the expectation of getting there.

How about you?

What do remember that filled you with pre-Christmas excitement as a child?

What did you most look forward to?

What do you eagerly expect this Christmas?