Starting to celebrate Christmas before Thanksgiving

I prided myself for getting Christmas decorations early on, before Thanksgiving. Following my daughter’s suggestion, I chose the pre-lit Christmas wreath and tree. The boxes arrived a few days ago, soon after my daughter flew back to Georgia. Figglesticks! I wanted her to set them up for me. Now, I have to figure it all out: assembly, electrical connections and all. Knowing that I hide behind my baby boomer age and tend to shy from mechanical or technical stuff, I won’t be surprised if she thought, this would be a test for me. Hmmm …. I must pass this test.

So, I opened the boxes this afternoon, resolutely bent on assembling the parts and working out the battery and electrical connections. Gave myself a huge pat on the back – I figured out putting together the wreath and installing the batteries for the colored lights to turn on. Voila! All lit in the right places, lovely and enchanting. But wait a minute – it’s supposed to be hung on the front door. The truth is, I was stuck – trying to make the stick-on hanger to work. I decided to fiddle with the tree package instead. Hanging of the wreath can wait.

Uh-oh! I couldn’t even pull the tree out of the slender box. So tightly packed. Was afraid to break the branches. Should that wait for later too? Part of passing the test was, I didn’t procrastinate. Somehow, things got done.

Then I remember the Christmases of my youth in my old home in the province. Papa always encouraged his children to be innovative – use your imagination, he would say. So, for a Christmas tree, he wanted one out of the usual or ordinary. He made the kids choose a medium sized bush from the river bank behind our house. He cut it down and assigned it to me and my younger siblings to make something out of it. We didn’t need much imagination to envision it as our Christmas tree. But first, the leaves had to be shed off the branches. So we busied ourselves into tearing off the greens. The result was a sad brown bald tree, not at all the happy tree we dreamed of.

Mama was quick to suggest. She’d buy some colored crepe paper and paste. Red and green we chorused. All afternoon, we waited for her to come home from a faculty meeting at the college, so we could all go downtown for the crepe rolls. We could hardly wait to get home to start the project. We all decided on white for the branches and trunk, and chains of little circles in red and green all over the white tree. The finale to the tree project were slithers of silver tinsel and sprinkles of stardust. The tree facelift was surprisingly fabulous – simple, not expensive, elegant and a fun family effort, a creative product of imagination. Perhaps not totally original, but for us youths, charmingly original!

Then my mind turned to Christmas in Pennsylvania when I was a high school exchange student. It was a true adventure for me to drive with my host family to the mountain. We hiked up to find a beautiful pine for my host Dad to cut down, and all five of us in the family dragged the 8-foot pine down to where the station wagon was parked. A first and fun experience for me that I’ll never forget, especially because of the bone-chilling 20-degree weather outdoors. I can still smell the sweet and pungent wafts of pine in that Allegheny mountain. I can still feel the sharp pricks of the pine cones and needle leaves on my palm. I can still see the bright smiles on Mom’s and Dad’s faces, smug about their great find – just the right tree for the home, they said. The home was a lovely and large green bungalow, with a wide family room surrounded with glass walls. The house sat on a slope overlooking a forest-like backyard with mounds of billowy snow on the ground and feathery snow flakes on tree branches. Much like a winter fairy land.

Then, I recall the Christmases in California when my son and daughter were little children. My husband and I made it a point to have Christmas decorations and a tree at home during the holidays. The tree was always real. The children took great pleasure in putting on the trimmings, either tiptoeing to stretch for the higher branches, or standing precariously on a chair and leaping off after hooking a shiny ball on a twig.  There was happy chaos, but ecstatically delightful.  They clapped and cheered when the gift boxes started to appear underneath the tree. The colorful and shiny wrappings were just as attractive and interesting as the trimmings. But more significant was the excitement of celebrating Jesus’ birthday.  We sang carols everyday.  When the children went off to college, I recall artificial Christmas trees with multiple strands of colored lights that livened our living room. I remember being thankful for not having to pick pine needles off the shaggy carpet.  When my husband and I became boomers, especially because we usually travelled to the Philippines in December, there were no decorations nor tree at home.

This year, I told my grandson that next time he and his Dad and Mom visit, there’ll be a large wreath laden with twinkling little bulbs on my front door, and a well-lighted tree on the table in the middle of the living room. So, I seriously struggled with pulling the tree out of the slender box. Careful, I told myself. Shouldn’t rip the lights and chords off the branches.  No need to rush. Do it gently, I told myself. It’ll all come together.  My husband gone beyond must be laughing fondly at me. Maybe, wanting to whisper – it’s really not hard to do. Excited for Christmas – yes!  But I got too far ahead. Thanksgiving hadn’t come yet. Perhaps, that’s why the tree stubbornly stuck in the box!

Not wanting to give up, I asked my Japanese lady friend to help put the tree together. She was all so eager and read the instructions in very fine print (my excuse). She unfolded the stand, put the tubes together, inserted the lower trunk in the base, found the light connections and put on the trimmings — her first time to trim a Christmas tree. The tree is gorgeous! The lighted wreath now hangs on the front door. We’re ready for Christmas. And it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.

Happy Thanksgiving, and Merry Christmas, everyone!

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