Most people who celebrate Christmas have specific traditions and customs surrounding the holiday. The same can be said of any holiday, but Christmas (at least in the USA) can have really variable traditions. Do you open presents on the 24th, or the 25th? If it’s the 24th, is it just one present or all of them? Do you do Santa? Does he bring a lot, or a little? Are his gifts wrapped, or unwrapped? And then there’s the decor, the food, the parties, the music.
When I was five, my parents bought a house after years and years of renting. One of the first things my mom did was put in a garden, a garden of her very own, one she wouldn’t have to leave behind. She planted some plants she got from her mom’s garden, Lillies of the Valley. And either that year or soon after, I forget when, we started a new Christmas Tradition. Instead of a cut tree (we had a small collection of various tree stands) or a fake tree (we never had one) we started picking out a fir tree with a root ball still attached; a living tree. The adults would troop out after Thanksgiving dinner with a pick axe and shovels and break up the possibly frozen definitely clay-y soil and dig a hole, then cover it with boards. The tree wouldn’t actually be delivered until just before Christmas. We often didn’t get it into the house and set up until the 23rd or 24th. They were pretty ugly trees, too. They were younger than the trees you get when you buy a cut tree (the root ball could add a foot or two of height) and had naked bits and gaps and crooked leaders. And there was the wet, muddy, burlap-sack-covered and sheathed in plastic sheeting root ball to contend with. One had to be careful of present placement, even when plastic and cloth had been put down, swathing the root ball. But oh, the trees smelled so incredibly good. And now my parents have the most beautiful line of giant healthy pine trees along their house.
I miss the smell of a fresh live pine tree. I hate our fake tree. My husband, how grew up with fake trees, wants to upgrade our tree to a better quality fake tree next year. He points out that a cut tree would be hard to get in and out of the apartment, they shed needles, the city picks them up for “recycling” (shunts them into a wood chipper for mulch) before Eastern Orthodox Christmas which means we’d either need to take the tree down early or else dispose of it ourselves (and a tree sat in the alley for a good six months at our last apartment, set out too late or possibly covered by snow and overlooked and then ignored), and we’d wind up spending money every single year on a new tree, and blah blah hassle blah blah blah. And he’s right. But fake trees are so incredibly awful for the environment. Most of them are made in China, which means their carbon footprint just for shipping is immense. They’re made essentially in sweatshops, of PVC, can have high levels of lead, and you can’t (easily) recycle them which means almost every single artificial tree (and swag!) ever made is going to last forever. Cut trees are shipped as well, but a much shorter distance, and the ones that are cut are planted specifically for that purpose and then a new sapling is planted.
So we’re currently at a Christmas Tree Impasse and will probably just keep using our fake tree until it falls apart or something. I guess it’s becoming a tradition in its own right… more so now that Niko has reached the helpful stage.
So, you know, there’s that. (Nesko was the one doing the actual tree assembly. This was early on a lazy weekend morning so he hadn’t showered yet, so I’m not putting pictures of him with dirty hair up on the web. he is, however, wearing a “bumble” t-shirt from “Rudolph.” He still has his teeth on the shirt, the only reason I permitted purchasing it OH MY GOD WHAT A FUCKED UP MOVIE.)
Nesko likes colored lights on the tree and lights that blink or chase or glow or fade in and out or otherwise act in ways that distract me or give me a migraine. So we have white lights that don’t twinkle or fade or dance or sing or do anything ridiculous or tacky (YES YES I AM JUDGMENTAL, UNREASONABLY SO, ABOUT CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTS ITS JUST WHO I AM, OK?) except for some giant blue bubble lights that just kick all kinds of ass.
(pretend that plastic bag under the tree isn’t there, ok? it held garland earlier and I forgot to pick it up.)
We intend to 1) get more bubble lights (THEY ARE SO COOL) 2) upgrade to LED lights 3) get strands of both clear/white and red because I find red an acceptable compromise color wise and this way we can unplug the red lights and just have white when I’m feeling ornery and have merry berry-like lights the rest of the time.
You may also have noted the mismatched garland and the desperate use of ribbon to fill garland-less space. Also the gaping holes in the tree because it’s a shitty tree. I HATE YOU TREE OK. We have three strands of one garland I love, two strands of another garland I love that totally clashes with the first style, and two strands of a super cheap garland we got at Walgreens the first year we put the tree up and that looks like crap. ALL OF THEM TOGETHER ARE NOT ENOUGH. But that’s ok. You may also have noticed that the ornaments look a little sparse. I have FIVE MILLION ORNAMENTS, most of them incredibly breakable. I have a 21 month old who came running up to me the other morning, arms full of ornaments he’d harvested from the tree. “Ball,” he exclaimed delightedly. “BALL!” and then threw them at me and ran off to get more. I am so incredibly glad I didn’t hang any of the fragile, breakable, some of them antique almost all of them heavy with meaning (or else cheap but very breakable) ornaments. What you see there is all our unbreakable stuff, some of it incredibly creepy and from the 1950s. I should take close up photos of some of the creepier ornaments, which include a ladder of santas with inhuman faces, and a small teddy bear whose eyes are dripping down his face.
Speaking of ornaments, one of our traditions (started when I was a kid) involves buying everyone a new ornament every year. Before we had Niko, Nesko and I used to hit Marshall Field’s (before it was Macy’s) every year AFTER Christmas so the ornaments we got were on sale. Now we try to hit a local small business and shunt our money there (FUCK YOU MACY’s oh god my Christmas traditions involve a lot of hate). When Niko’s old enough to really be aware and take part in selecting ornaments we’ll go back to the pre-Christmas tradition. We’ll also resurrect the tradition of checking out the window displays downtown. But he is just a BAAAAAAAAAABY right now and I’m not taking him out in sub-zero weather unless he’s going to enjoy it and remember it.
The nativity scene is a big deal at Christmas, and the Baby Jesus (HE IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON YOU GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!eleventy) is in the 25th day of the perpetual wooden advent calendar we have. You may also notice the candles with spinning angel thingy and the jars of candy ALL TRADITIONAL. Them being on top of the tv is not traditional, but our mantle is filled with books so there’s no room over there (OH GOD NO ROOM FOR JESUS ON THE MANTLE history is repeating itself :C :C :C).
You can totally tell when this photo was taken by counting the doors. I do the advent calendar for Nesko (he’s used to the cardboard ones with really crappy chocolate inside. One year I got him one from Fannie May and he was over. the. moon.) and put little candies inside that he’ll like. One of these days I’ll have my act together enough (and will have money enough) to put tiny gifts in there as well. One of our plans is to construct an Advent Calendar with 14 extra doors, for Eastern Orthodox kids/families who are into Advent Calendars, so they can start Dec 1st and go all the way to Jan 7th/Christmas.
See the little porcelain Santa next to the calendar? I was an overly precocious child and every. single. year. my Christmas List was topped by “actually seeing Santa.” So every single year my overly clever parents frustrated me with Santa ornaments and stuff. This guy’s one of my favorites.
Oh man, look at those stockings! They’ve got our (correctly spelled) names on ‘em and everything. How classy is that? For the first time IN MY ENTIRE LIFE there’s a fireplace I can hang stockings by. How awesome is that? This particular fireplace has been blocked off but I think we’re going to install a gas fireplace insert (my father in law and I both had the idea at roughly the same time, without talking to each other, WE SHARE ONE MIND APPARENTLY) next year. And then we’ll have a fireplace. I was kind of bummed by the fact that a gas insert doesn’t let you open the doors and burn actual wood for that wood smoke smell, nor can you pop popcorn or roast marshmallows or whatever. And then I was all DURR WHEN WOULD YOU ACTUALLY DO THAT PS WOOD SMOKE MAKES YOUR ASTHMA WORSE IDIOT. Anyway, stocking contents have to include a candy cane, a Terry’s Chocolate Orange in the toe, some loose chocolates and hard candy and nuts, and small toys/presents. These stockings were a gift from my in-laws and I adore the fact that we all match. LOOK I AM A MATCHY PERSON. I have a condition. (I am not joking about that.)
I worked at Fannie May right before they declared bankruptcy. It was a pretty awesome job in general, and I loved my co-workers, although we had some terrible scams that we foiled (or laughed over, in the case of the tiny old lady with an Irish accent who would try to dump whole sample trays in her purse and then scold us for not having samples out for her to try) and I lost my taste for sweet things for awhile (between that and the bakery, oh my LORD, I just wanted to curl up with a salt lick). That Christmas season I collected all the FM stuffed animals and here they are. Ultimately they’ll be down lower, but I don’t want Niko sucking on their eyes and shoving them under the couch and generally LOVING them, so up they are and up they’ll stay for awhile.
These little angels were always one of the big harbingers of Christmas, for me. So I got my own set. The original ones were owned by my grandma and on her death passed to my mom. I’ve missed these little musical angels for years, and a quick eBay search brought some home to me. Aren’t they cute?
That’s actually all the decorating we’ve done for Christmas, in large part because we have a very active toddler who gets into everything. We currently have two chairs wedged in the doorway between the living and the sunroom (which is where the tree is) to keep him from harvesting more ornaments from it. We’ll do more when he’s older (assuming there isn’t another tiny child getting into things).
Some of our other traditions include Certain Special Movies– “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” for me and those claymation classics like “Rudolph” and “Frosty the Snowman” for Nesko, movies I’d never seen until after we’d moved in together. “The Nutcracker Suite” is a big one for me, and when Niko gets older I want to start going to a production every year. Until then we watch it on PBS and listen to a CD with the music. A glut of cookies, lots of baking, my mom makes rich deep moist boozey fruitcake most years. One present on Christmas Eve and a midnight Mass with candlelight vigil, some kind of catch as catch can breakfast of rolls and milk (coffee for the adults) and candy Christmas morning, presents from Santa and stockings torn into, all other gifts opened carefully in turn. Thank you cards written right after. Christmas cards written and posted within the week after Thanksgiving (I’m late this year due to dashed hopes of getting a family photo taken and printed in time; I haven’t sent out a Christmas card in a few years, though).
One unusual thing this Christmas is snow.
We live in the Midwest (Chicago! woo! Chicago!) which means that every winter we get hit with huge amounts of snow, but usually we get flurries around Thanksgiving and then no actual snow until January. I’ve been seeing a lot of melt recently, but I think we’ll actually have a White Christmas this year.
Mirrored from Now Showing!.