It's here. Whether we like it or not, holiday time is upon us with all of its trappings, bows, baubles and wrappings. The month of December always seems to turn into an endurance run of baking, parties, shopping and wrapping gifts, all to be squeezed into an already busy life. The endless Christmas songs on the radio, which start the day after Thanksgiving, give me a yuletide headache. Four weeks of having to listen to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer should be outlawed. I am definitely more of a Christmas minimalist. I have the spirit, enough to not appear Grinch-like, but I'm not a holly, jolly "let's decorate every inch of the house" person. In fact, I confess this picture is of our tree last year. We opted not to have a Christmas tree in our house this year. We have lights up, some beads on the mantel, our stockings are hung, but no tree. We just couldn't muster the strength to do it, between traveling to our parent's homes, one set in NH, the other set in SC, it just didn't seem like it was neccesary to go through the effort. I miss the pine scent in the house, but not the mess of falling needles, or keeping the cats from removing ornaments and batting them under the sofa to be found in July, covered with hair and whatever else lives under a sofa.
As a child, I had such mixed feelings about Christmas. Waking up before the rest of the family on Christmas morning, I would sit quietly in front of the tree and examine the bounty that Santa had so thoughtfully brought us. It always seemed so magical to me that these gifts appeared in our house, delivered soundlessly by a beefy, bearded man, who somehow made it in the house without causing our dog, Jake to bark, or leaving so much as a soggy footprint. On Christmas day my Mom would cook a delicious midday meal, while my older sisters and I played with new toys, or modeled new clothes. Before evening set in, my Dad would fall asleep in his chair, no doubt a victim of slightly too much holiday cheer at the family Christmas Eve party. At the end of the day, I would always be slumped on my bed, shedding a few post holiday tears, so depressed that Christmas Day had come and gone in a red and green blur. Granted, I was a rather unusual child, but it seemed to me like there was too much buildup involved in this holiday for it to only last one day. Cookie baking and decorating, tree trimming, carol singing, Christmas plays at school, Christmas pageants at church, Christmas shows on TV, shopping, wrapping, more glittery decorations for the house, and in 24 hours it was all done for the year. Just like that. Over. Just after New Year's Day, out went the tree to lie upon the lawn like a decaying Christmas carcass for a week, or two before my Dad would finally get sick of my Mom asking him to get rid of it and drag it off to the dump. Once so majestic, covered with colorful lights and nostalgic ornaments, now naked and brittle it was just an ordinary dead evergreen, with shards of tinsel clinging to a few branches, a mocking reminder of its former glory. That was the final sign that Christmas was indeed over.
So, this is turning into a holiday obituary and that wasn't my original intent. The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with our families, share gifts with those we love, eat too much good food and toast to the upcoming new year. I will say now with a genuine Jingle Bells tune in my heart (if not ringing in my ears), Merry Christmas to all and Happy New Year!