Tag Archives: Christmas

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas…a Frasier Fir Hits the Curb

Merry Christmas!!  Is it still appropriate to say that on the 12th day?  In many countries, children look forward to celebrating Three Kings Day, when they will receive presents and treats from the Kings.  Feasts and festivals surround the occasion and often involve the communal packing away of Christmas nativities and decorations.  And in some parts of the world, Christmas will be celebrated tomorrow, January 7th.  Our Orthodox Christian brethren in Ukraine, Russia, Serbia, and elsewhere follow the old Julian calendar, which is 12 days behind the modern calendar.  Thus, their Feast of the Nativity falls on January 7th.

How strange it must be for those Orthodox Christians in the United States, and there are some.  I once worked with a guy who took his Christmas vacation just as everyone else in the office was returning from theirs.  I suppose one would have to become a really early shopper to plan a successful Orthodox Christmas celebration.  Imagine going to Target or Wal-Mart today in search of Christmas gift wrap or ornaments!  You might be able to score something at 75% off, but it would be the leftovers.  My Target, for example, had only hot pink Christmas lights left.  And what about a tree?!  The only way to have a real tree would be to put it up at least 2 weeks early, when the tree lots are trying to unload the last of their stock.  You could only hope it would last this long without shedding every last needle or bursting into flame.

I’m proud to say that my Christmas tree still stands today.  My outdoor Nativity remains lit.  In fact, we are the last house on the block with Christmas decorations still fired up, although my cedar garland didn’t make it this long.  We got lucky this year.  With Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on Sundays, the municipal trash collection schedule permits us to keep our tree these last days of Christmas.  Sad as it sounds, we are dictated to by the city waste management, which will only collect discarded Christmas trees on the 2 regular trash pick-up days after Christmas.  Miss those and your alternatives are hauling the tree to the landfill yourself or chopping it up into a 4 x 4 pile for pick up with other yard debris.  Tyranny, I say!!

That’s the price we pay for living in suburbia.  In past years, when we lived on the edge of woods, we would drag our tree into the woods, where it would become part of the natural habitat.  We could go the extreme route our neighbors took one year.  They held a tree-burning party in the middle of the cul-de-sac.  Of course, they were lucky no one called the police of the fire department.  You need a permit for that sort of thing, after all.

To any other die-hards out there, a very merry Twelfth Day of Christmas to you and yours!

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O, Tidings of Comfort and Joy

It is 2 days before Christmas, and like most everyone else, I have lots to do.  The best I can do today is a post of random thoughts on the holiday, my own preparations, and various observations.

  • The number of days remaining until Christmas is inversely proportional to the number of hours your cat wants to spend in your lap.  That was for the math-y types out there.  Here’s how it works:  As the number of days until Christmas decreases, the hours with kitty in lap increases.
  • If you are loaded up with inspiration but lack motivation, avoid home decorating blogs in the week prior to Christmas.  Yes, it’s fun to see what incredibly creative people do with greens from their own back yards or coffee filters or feathers.  However, those of us who have spent the last several weeks focused on surviving through Christmas concerts and college applications only feel like slackers when they compare this creativity to their own meager attempts to deck the halls.
  • Since when has the classification of Christmas carols become so broad?  If a song mentions a gift or winter, is it Christmas Carol worthy?  Joni Mitchell’s “River” is a huge downer that has nothing to do with Christmas.  “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music mentions snowflakes and mittens, so it must be about Christmas, right?
  • I’m pleasantly surprised to see an abundance of Nativity Scenes as part of outdoor Christmas decorations in my neighborhood.  I don’t recall seeing so many last year.  I wonder if it’s due to the impending societal collapse that’s sure to come in the New Year, or if people are just finding Jesus now in anticipation of the Mayan End-of-the-World prediction for 2012.  Whatever the case, I say, keep them coming!
  • Midnight Mass is at 11 pm.  I know midnight is late, but come on.

Wishing you joy and true peace as you celebrate the birth of the Savior.

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Just Stop It: Admonitions for the Season

I know.  I know.  Peace on earth, goodwill toward men and all that.  Really, though, there must be some things we all agree are tacky and unsightly during this festive time of year.  I posted not too long ago about some rules for Halloween.  Naturally, I have some thoughts on what is and is not appropriate for Christmas.

Do you have one of these in your yard?  Then you are already an offender.  And this cheery Santa with his elf isn’t even the worst inflatable out there.  I have seen–with my own eyes–Santa in a hammock under a palm tree, every imaginable cartoon character decked out for Christmas, and even an inflatable nativity scene.  9 times out of 10, people don’t anchor these things properly, and they end up doubled over like Santa with severe abdominal pain.  Even worse, though, is when they look like this:

This looks like the aftermath of a drive-by shooting.  So…if you are going to commit yourself to an inflatable, why wouldn’t you keep it inflated??  Yeah, you can operate lights on a timer so they go off in the daylight.  An inflatable is a round-the-clock thing.  Otherwise, get out the crime scene tape.

Hey, ugly Christmas decor isn’t limited to outdoors, either.  I was at one of those high-end type discount retailers a few weeks ago and spotted some truly awful specimens.  I suppose someone finds them oh-so-chic, but this pair just frightens me:

I think they are meant to be reindeer, but where these were made (Taiwan, Bangladesh??) perhaps the native language confuses reindeer with giraffe.  I guess you could call this one the cuddlier version:

Notice how soft and huggable it looks in that neon green velvet.

Perhaps where you live, it’s cold enough for cozy hats and scarves.  Around here, we are just beginning to see some chilly temperatures.  Nevertheless, it seems like I can’t go anywhere without seeing one of these hideous things:

Have you seen these animal hats?  Mind you, these are actually hats for adults.  With fur.  And ears.  How can I put this nicely?  If you are over the age of 10, you have no business wearing a furry hat with animal ears and long, draping…what are those?  Arms?  Grow up, people.  It’s not cute on you; it’s disturbing.  And even if you are an elementary school age youngster, who told you that sort of hat was appropriate attire for church?  And I’m not referring to:  “It’s cold outside.  I need to wear a hat to church.”  Unless you worship in the great outdoors in near-freezing temperatures, TAKE OFF THE HAT!!  In other words, this is NOT the perfect gift.

Last but not least, a word about LED Christmas lights.  Yuck.  That’s the word.  I don’t care how much energy they save; they are just plain awful.  I don’t care if the box says the light from that string is “Warm.”  There’s nothing warm or inviting about it.  Did you ever see the classic Tom Hanks movie “Joe Versus the Volcano?”  (It’s hilarious in an “Office Space” sort of way.)  LED Christmas lights remind me of this scene:

I know the idea behind them is all of this “green” business.  In this case, green is what you get instead of that cozy glow of incandescent Christmas bulbs.

So there you have it.  My top gripes for the holidays.  Well, at least for today.  Does that make me a Grinch?  Perhaps under the glow of your LED lights it does.

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Where Are You, Christmas?

“Where are you Christmas?  Why can’t I find you?”  I’m sort of a fan of that Faith Hill song, although I really dislike the scary live-action Grinch movie it came from.  Welcome to the first week of December, and I can’t seem to get into the spirit of the season.  Cue the Alan Silvestri song: “It’s the spirit of the season/ you can feel it the air/ you can hear it if you listen/ everywhere so much care like a prayer.”

Hmmm.  I wouldn’t exactly call what I have been hearing since late October “so much care like a prayer.”  Yesterday, I saw a Wal-Mart commercial on TV.  It featured a catchy tune with children gaily threatening their parents to hurry up and get downstairs because Christmas morning is here at last.  The corresponding video shows the little cherubs forcing their sleeping parents’ eyes open.  Wait.  It gets better.  Did you happen to catch the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” on television Tuesday night?  Too bad I missed it.  Maybe that was exactly what I needed to get me into the Christmas spirit: models wearing only underwear prancing up and down with wings strapped to their backs, all to the holiday musical stylings of Kanye West.

Perhaps if I started decorating the house I would find some Yuletide cheer.  As ever, mine is the only house in the cul-de-sac still sporting mums and pumpkins on December 2nd.  My neighbors have all plugged in the Christmas lights, and they seem to have opted for bigger and brighter this year.  Wreaths in every window, lights lining the eaves, perfect net lights adorning every shrub.  One wonders how they do it with only one freaking outdoor outlet.  Think of the money they must sink into extension cords.  I just can’t get beyond the 3-prong, 2-prong thing.  How is it that I always end up with incompatible lights and cords and outlets?

SuzyQ reminded me the other day that it’s time to start working on the annual family Christmas letter.  She’s right, but I’m wondering what’s the point.  Last year I think I received about a dozen Christmas cards.  I know I sent out a lot more than that.  I put a lot of effort into writing that letter, writing a personal note in each card, and addressing them all for the mail.  In return, most of the cards I get are those photo cards with pictures of people’s kids (Cute, but I’m not friends with them) and a signature.  I do have one old friend who hand-writes paragraphs about her family every year.  God Bless Her.  Maybe that’s why I bother.

So I see that on Monday night, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is scheduled to air.  Perhaps that’s what I need.  First of all, Snoopy always makes me happy.  Secondly, it’s hard to “Bah Humbug” after hearing those famous lines by Linus:

For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'” That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

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It Wouldn’t Be Christmas Without…

…this angel that Junior made out of a toilet paper tube when he was 6 years old.  We were between houses that Christmas, renting a place until our house was finished being built.  All of our household goods were in storage, so when Christmas came around, we had to make all of our decorations by hand.  Junior surprised me by making this angel all on his own for my Christmas gift.  Even now, when we have all of our regular ornaments and decorations, this angel goes on the top of the mini tree we put up every year with most of the handmade ornaments from that Christmas.

I love unpacking that angel each year and remembering how we have made the best of things for many Christmases.  That’s part of what being a military family is about.  Many times, the holidays come, and you are separated from your loved one.  Thankfully, we have only experienced that a couple of times.  More often, we found ourselves far away from our extended family.  It was in those years that we developed our own traditions and some treasured memories.

In our first year in Hawaii, Darling Husband was deployed for Christmas.  We traveled to meet him at a port call in Singapore.  I carried a present or two for each kid in my suitcase to open on Christmas morning.  The kids loved telling their grandparents that their Christmas came first because they were over the International Dateline.  And Christmas clothes for the tropics looked a lot different from normal:

By the next year, we had orders moving us back to the Mainland 2 weeks after Christmas.  Nearly all of our things except for the bare-bones essentials had already been shipped ahead.  We had borrowed furniture.  Our Christmas tree that year was a scraggly, 2-foot potted Norfolk pine, decorated with just one string of lights and a few strings of popcorn and cranberries.  We remember that as the year of the “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.”  All of the presents that couldn’t easily fit in a suitcase had to be crated up and sent to the Mainland, not to be seen again for 6 six weeks while they were in transit.

Without a doubt, the holidays can bring some really tough times for military families.  Sometimes, holidays in the military force you to get pretty creative in how you celebrate.  Years later, though, the memories of those unusual celebrations are the ones that really warm my heart.

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The Super Deluxe Marriage Saver

Maybe we are the only couple in the world who end up singing, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” through gritted teeth as we put up our Christmas tree.  Maybe no one else is bothered by having to crawl under the tree to tighten those evil screws AGAIN because the tree moved in the stand, and now it’s crooked.  Perhaps I’m the only one who can’t stand getting under there every morning to water that lovely tree and emerge with needles in my hair and sap on my clothes.

That was our story until a few years ago, when we spent probably the best $15 ever on this:

This monstrosity is the best ever tree stand, purchased after Christmas at 75% off.  A plastic foot pedal fits into the front and turns the gears which tighten a cable around the tree trunk.  One person can hold the tree steady and tighten it in the stand all at once, while standing!!   And it holds 4 gallons of water.  No more crawling under!!

Such a silly, little thing, and yet what a difference it makes.  You see, when you combine an engineer, who must have everything in straight lines and right angles, with a liberal arts major, who looks at the big picture with all of its flaws, every little bit helps to keep the peace.  No one wants to fight over the Christmas tree.  It’s just that everyone has their expectations, whether it’s precision strings of lights perfectly parallel around a perfectly conical tree, or the natural randomness of lights woven around and through the branches of a fluffy, non-artificially shaped tree.

Darling husband and I have been married for 18 and a half years.  That’s more than a few Christmases trying to get the decorations up while keeping on speaking terms.  That tree stand would have been worth it even if it hadn’t been 75% off.

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I Was First! No, I Was!!

Image from Wal-Mart.com

What does the picture on your wall calendar look like?  If mine wasn’t a calendar of lush tropical island views, it would probably have a Norman Rockwell-type scene of a family gathered around a table.  Or maybe it would have some variation of the “Give Thanks” theme.  I can tell you for certain what it wouldn’t depict: Santa or a Christmas tree or a snow-covered wonderland.  Those are all reserved for next month–December.

So why, then, do more folks than ever have their homes decked out for Christmas already?  Over the weekend, I was stunned to see so many cases of jumping the holiday gun:

  • Friday, November 19:  An evening trip to Wal-Mart revealed their garden center full of cut trees ready for sale.  Wonder what those “fresh” trees will look like come Christmas Eve?
  • Saturday, November 20:  At SuzyQ’s chorus concert, one family arrived with a fresh Christmas tree strapped to the top of their car.  I guess they planned to rush home and start decorating it.
  • Sunday, November 21:  Outdoor decorations have cropped up in several neighborhoods near me.  I saw everything from just routine lights on the porch rails to yards full of those hideous inflatable snowmen and Santas.

Christmas is more than a month away (33 days from today, in fact).  We haven’t even broken into December yet.  I get why the stores start stocking Christmas merchandise even before Halloween.  They want to stretch every dollar possible out of a shopping-mad season.  I’m a free-market gal, so I can’t condemn retailers trying to make a profit, no matter what my personal feelings on the commercialization of Christmas may be.  I don’t know how the store employees can stand listening to the same rotation of Christmas music for 2 months straight, though.

But why on earth would anyone be so eager to get their lights and yard decorations up this early except to be able to say, “I was the first on my block.”  Do these people rationalize, “I’m already up in the attic putting away the Halloween decorations, so I might as well get the Christmas stuff while I’m up here”?  It’s not as though this past weekend was the last chance to do outdoor decorating before the snows come.  In my part of the country, we’ll be lucky to see a dusting of snow in late January.  In fact, the leaves are still falling off the trees here, so will these folks rake around the giant reindeer or just use the leaf blower and risk sending Rudolph up, up, and away for real?

This obsession with being first kind of baffles me.  Why camp out in line to get tickets to the first “Harry Potter” movie airing when you know it will be shown on at least 8 other screens, 6 times a day, for the next 4 weeks?  Why subject yourself to the stampede trying to get the new iPhone on the first day it’s available in stores?  It’s just as good 3 weeks later.  What sort of status comes from being the First?  Does anyone really go around thinking, “Gee, I’m definitely going to sleep out on the sidewalk for a week to get the next new iPhone so I can be as cool as that guy.”

For the record, we typically are the last family on our block to decorate for Christmas.  And we will be the ones trying to figure out if we missed the last recycle pick-up for our tree, too.  Having a Christmas tree on the curb in front of your house halfway through January–now that’s status.

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