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, before 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 wreathe 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’m stuck – trying to solve this hanger stick-on to work. I decided to work on the tree package instead. The hanging of the wreathe can wait.

Uh-oh! I can’t even pull the tree out of the slender box. So tightly packed. I ‘m afraid to break the branches. Should that wait for later too?  No, that didn’t wait — I was on a roll!

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 lots of billowy snow on the ground and on tree branches. Much like a winter fairy land.

Then, I recall the Christmases in California when my children were small. My husband and I made it a point to have Christmas decorations and a tree during the holidays. The tree was always real. The children had so much fun putting on the trimmings. They clapped and cheered when the gift boxes started to appear underneath the tree. The colorful and shiny wrappings were just as important as the trimmings. When the children went off to college, I recall artificial Christmas trees with lots of colored lights that livened our living room. I seem to remember being thankful for not having to pick pine needles off the shaggy carpet. And as we got to be boomers, and especially because we traveled usually to the Philippines in December, there were no decorations or tree at home.

This year, I told my grandson that next time he and his Mon and Dad visit, there’ll be a large wreathe 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 struggle with pulling the tree out of the slender box. Careful, I tell myself. Shouldn’t rip the lights and chords off the branches. I’m actually excited, but shouldn’t rush. Do it gently, I tell myself. It’ll all come together, I promise (myself). 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’m too far ahead. Thanksgiving isn’t here yet. Perhaps, that’s why the tree is too stuck in the box!

Linda P. Jacob