Monday, December 12, 2016 11:48 AM
I like a Christmas tree—who doesn’t love a Christmas tree? For many holiday homes, the tree and the colored lights outside the house comprise the totality of decoration for the season. Since we all lead busy lives, it would be petty to expect anything more from the average home. And one could easily make the case that having a felled tree in the living room for a month should be enough seasonal spirit for anybody. And climbing a ladder around the outside of the house to string the lights, especially if snow has arrived, is no small chore either.
But some folks don’t stop there—seasonal tchotchkes, embroidered hangings and runners, sleigh-bells on the door to announce visitors, tiny china crèches—or Santa-sleighs with the full eight caribou—one’s house can be liberally sprinkled with panoply of Xmas-alia. My favorite—and you don’t see them all that often nowadays—is the sprig of mistletoe hanging from an arch. Nothing combines fun, romance, and extreme awkwardness like hanging mistletoe.
I blame their rarity on the lack of outlets for the product—when you buy a tree, you can usually get wreaths, sprigs of holly, boughs of pine for the mantle, etc.—but very few spots carry mistletoe. There are no mistletoe farms to match the many fir farms that supply the holiday’s chiefest need—perhaps their rarity limits mistletoe to the upper-incomes’ homes—I don’t know. But IMHO it speaks poorly of the American spirit that a ‘kissing’ decoration has become a fading tradition.
All of this is from my grown-up perspective—the only decoration that impressed me, as a boy, were candy-dishes. The most popular decoration, for grandmas and such, are the fine-china bowls of assorted hard candies in primary colors—very festive, very gay—and while, if polled, kids could unanimously tell you that is their least favorite candy, even children are delighted by the colorful sight—and there is candy in that bowl, and any candy is better than no candy.
But a real grandma—those magical grandmas that know how to make kids’ eye dance—will augment the pretty candy with good candy: sour balls, taffy, jelly beans—and holy of holies, chocolate. Of course, the furniture will take a hit—not to mention some parents’ best outfits—and the sugar-rush will only enhance the present-anticipation hysteria—but a party’s a party, right?
As a child I judged holiday home decorations by the amount and variety of the candy bowls—the rest was just background noise to my sugar-seeking senses. Our health-conscious society frowns upon candy, as a general rule—but it is a mistake to overlook the love affair between children and candy, especially on festive occasions. Kids will sing along with the carols, they’ll eat the big holiday feast at the big table, they’ll be excited about Santa coming—but it’s not really a party without the treasure-hoard of childhood—candy.
Now, money is the candy of the grown-up world—and just as children love to eat candy, grown-ups love to spend money. This is a dangerous time of year for me—mid-December. I’ve already done my basic Christmas shopping, but these few days before Christmas I’m always tempted to get a little something extra, something special. If I’m not careful, I’ll hope onto Amazon.com and drop a few hundred bucks—for stuff that, likely as not, won’t be delivered until after New Year’s.
Impulse purchases are problematic for many people—but my memory problems make me even more vulnerable—I can’t tell you how many books I own two copies of. And if some little gift strikes me as perfect for a certain friend or relation, it’s like as not that I think so—because I gave them the same thing last year. Then I get in that quandary of trying to re-apportion gifts to people they weren’t meant for—‘the thought that counts’, my foot!
How I mourn the days when kids’ favorite gift was the one from Uncle Chris—I used to really get into Christmas and, since I never really grew-up, I had a good eye for children’s gifts. But years of incapacity have made my participation in the festivities a faded memory—and that’s just as well, since I still can’t do Christmas the way I used to. If I mess up on presents now, everyone is very understanding—but boy how I wish they didn’t have to be.