This is date number three of the 12 Dates of Christmas. Decorating the Christmas tree is a great tradition. It brings everyone together to have fun and remember years gone by. It also brings on uncontrollable rage and tears of frustration when two people from very different tree decorating backgrounds try to come together to create their own masterpiece.
One thing that really gets my goat about Christmas is all of the false images associated with most traditions. Everywhere are images of perfect families happily decorating perfect Christmas trees and drinking perfect hot cocoa while sitting by perfect fires. For once I wish someone would show the flipside of things – cranky families decorating crooked trees and burning their tongues on hot cocoa while sitting next to their TV’s “Faux Fire.” Maybe then I wouldn’t feel so frustrated when my attempts at a perfect tree don’t work out.
I know creating the perfect tree is an impossible task, but my childhood compels me to try. When I was growing up, my parents always seemed to effortlessly create the perfect Christmas tree. My dad would spend at least two nights running rows of lights in and around every branch to create the perfectly balanced glow of lights, while my mom would patiently string silver beads expertly from branch to branch, creating perfectly spaced loops. By the time we were done, the ornaments all hung freely and an angel sat perfectly erect at the top.
Things weren’t quite the same for Brad growing up, so it’s no wonder that when we first decorated a tree together there were a few misunderstandings.
It happens to us every year. Every year I get excited about dragging out all of the ornaments and putting up the tree, and every year, at some point, I get cranky at the tree and want to set a match to it.
The rage usually begins to present itself during the lights stage. Nothing makes my inner Christmas tree burn more than unevenly distributed lights. Next are the beads. Beads are usually what do me in, so this year we skipped them, and I don’t think I will ever bead a tree again!
Though I had to re-hang a few ornaments behind Brad’s back that weren’t hanging freely, I think I did really well this year at just relaxing and enjoying the time spent together.
Decorating the Christmas tree was always a fun time in my house growing up. We’d put some Christmas music on really loud and talk about all our favorite ornaments as we took them out of their boxes. There wasn’t a whole lot of attention to detail. We just kind of put the ornaments wherever felt right (although mom probably fixed things up a little after we were done and gone to bed).
I still enjoy decorating the tree, however I’ve learned that not everyone shares my feelings about not needing perfection. To me it’s the fun of remembering the old decorations that have been around for years, and about spending time with family. If the lights are a little bare in some spots, who cares, just mask it with extra bulbs!
Our first two Christmas’s together we opted for a real tree. We liked going out into the cold and choosing the right tree, then bringing it home and having the smell drift through the whole house. The problem is that the second year our tree was crooked and thin and didn’t even have a smell. So after cleaning up 10 lbs. of needles, we finally caved and went fake. We found a really nice fake tree though that looks quite full.
Every year we try to buy a new tree ornament. Our first year together we got one with two penguins on it that says “Our 1st Christmas”, then the year after that we got one in New York. This year, we (or more specifically I) chose an ornament at the craft fair made to look like the Grinch. This is now one of my favorites and I think when we have kids they’ll get a kick out of it too.
Of course no task in the Murray household would be complete without being entertained by our cat Himmery. He was very curious about every decoration we brought out. His favorite new hiding spot is right underneath the tree in the back corner where he likes to sit and gnaw at the low branches. I think he secretly hopes to choke on a plastic needle so he can rid himself of this mortal coil. He somehow found a way to perch himself on the back of our couch and watch us decorate. I’m sure if he could speak English he would have been judging us harshly. That’s just how he rolls.
We had a great time decorating the tree this year. I think we’re both learning to bring our very different tree decorating backgrounds together in a way that isn’t quite as stress inducing as previous years. What are some of your favorite tree decorating traditions? Do you have any favorite old ornaments that you love seeing every year?