Some people begin celebrating Christmas the day after Halloween. While my family has a love for the holly jolly holiday, we enjoy Thanksgiving too and let it have its time. While most families spend their Friday after Thanksgiving running around town, snagging the best deals, mine puts on the “Merry Christmas, Y’all” CD, opens all the windows and begins dragging out all the green and red tote boxes labeled “Christmas.”
My dad begins climbing on top of our tin roof to string Christmas lights on every dormer. By lunchtime, our entire house is all decked out in twinkly white lights – he climbs poles and towers for a living, restoring lights for the city on a daily basis so this is a walk in the park for him.
After lugging every box of Christmas decorations we have downstairs, my mom begins hanging stockings on the fireplace and I wrap the bannister with garland. By the time afternoon rolls around, our house has been transformed into a Christmas cabin, right down to the Balsam and Cedar candles.
The only thing missing is a tree. But, this process takes some serious planning. We usually like to get our tree before the month of December begins but it all depends on how many men we can round up to help us haul the monstrous tree inside.
Ever since I was only a few years old, my family has been driving out to the woods, cutting down the biggest tree we could find and somehow managing to hoist it up in our house. Literally, my dad has created a system of pulleys to stand our usually 27 to 17-foot tree up.
Once the tree of the year has been mounted to the wall in several areas, fed several gallons of water and had a bucket full of lights wrapped around it, it’s time to break out the ladders and begin decorating. Or, if you’re a professional like my dad, you forget the ladder completely and just walk out on the beams above our living room, arms full of ornaments ready to hang.
We not only go all out with our Christmas lights, or get a Christmas tree that attempts to compete with the one at Rockefeller Center, but we also hang a six-foot wreath from the very top of our fireplace. Each year when picking out our Christmas tree, my sister and I gather up as many pinecones and branches as we can find, and my dad then creates all of his wreaths.
There are several other small decorations my family will always have at Christmas – my mom’s collection of snowmen, several other smaller, but still real, Christmas trees, hand carved wooden angels, and of course, plenty of rustic antique Christmas tree farm signs my dad has collected over the years all transform our home into what a lot of people call Cracker Barrel at Christmas time, but better.
When all the hard work is finally done, we build a fire in the backyard with any leftover tree scraps, old boxes and anything else we’ve accumulated after creating our Christmas paradise. We sit on the truck bed, eating beef stew and attempt to get all of the Christmas lights on the same timer – it’s something like Clark Griswold’s great moment in his front yard in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when we finally get them all set up and plugged in.
After weeks of enjoying our home that somewhat resembles a gingerbread house, plenty of delicious home-cooked
meals and baked goods, and a whole lot of sweeping up of pine needles, picking pine needles out of socks, and trying not to touch the tree so that no more fall off, we relax on Christmas Eve with our hot chocolate, a fire in the fireplace and watch our favorite Christmas movies – Elf, Home Alone 2, Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story and of course, It’s a Wonderful Life, the original in black and white from 1945.
While everyone has their own ways of celebrating Christmas, one of my favorite parts of it is all of the work and preparation that goes into it. To some it may be over the top, to others our traditions may just scratch the surface, but to me, it’s something I look forward to all year, every year. So no matter what your family’s Christmas traditions may be, cherish them because one of the greatest gifts you can receive during the holidays is just being together.