Blogging Christmas 2010

November 25, 2010 – So…I’m bad at Thanksgiving. Trying to artificially invoke vague feelings of gratitude for vague elements of my life to vague entities doesn’t really warm me. I mean, I’m all for counting blessings (hoarding them, actually), but when it comes down to it, gratitude is a reaction to direct stimuli, not an emotion that can be annually scheduled.

I do, however, love having two days off from work, building traditions, and spending the proverbial quality time with the proverbial family (often, my own) around an elaborate meal. But if I had it my way, I’d move Thanksgiving out of November to somewhere else in the calendar year. Maybe to the holiday wasteland that is May to June or January 2nd to Easter. As it currently stands, Thanksgiving gets in the way of me being able to celebrate Christmas for two full months, just like I do Halloween.

As a result, Thanksgiving Day is less a celebration of appreciativeness for me and more like the pistol shot at a foot race. It signifies the start of Christmas. The exact second that I push back from the Thanksgiving dinner table is the exact second that I want to put up a Christmas tree. The exact second that I’m okay with seeing Santa Claus shill products on television. The exact second that I start checking the weather daily for snow forecasts. The exact second that I start wanting peppermint hot chocolate and peppermint candy canes...when every other time of the year I find the flavor incurably boring.

That said, if you've been following me for the past week on Twitter or the O.T.I.S. Facebook page, you know that I've cheated on Thanksgiving with Christmas a few times already this year. Part of that is because I took a multi-state road trip in the days before Thanksgiving, so I get to invoke the whole zip code rule for cheating. Also, simply, the Christmas spirit seems to have possessed me a bit earlier than normal, and instead of head-spinning and self-mutilation, it manifested itself in early visits to holiday light festivals, Grinch-themed ice sculptures, and Christmas-transformed chocolate mega-gift shops. At least those visits will all be blogged in-season now that Thanksgiving is over.

I’m never sure if I like Christmas more than Halloween or Halloween more than Christmas—it usually depends on which holiday is the more imminent—but I do know that Christmas is just different. More people get more excited about it. Its garland tentacles spread festively into more areas of life. And people buy me stuff.

I live in New England now, but my Christmas season still starts in my home state of Maryland where my family lives and where I inevitably end up for Thanksgiving. Of course, that means that the exact second that I push back from the Thanksgiving dinner table I’m nowhere near my own house to start decorating for Christmas, nor will I be for a few days. I stop-gap that problem by setting up my parents’ Christmas tree.

So while other members of my family are watching football or gauging how much time their bodies need to recuperate before going in for seconds on Thanksgiving desert, I usually find myself in the basement trying to shove a Christmas tree up a stairwell like the Grinch shoving one up the chimney to “fix” the light that won’t light on one side. 

You see, usually, my parents don’t disassemble their artificial Christmas tree in the off season. They just remove its ornaments, throw a plastic bag over it to keep the dust off, and store it downstairs next to the detritus of Our Family Past. They bought a new tree a year or two ago, though, one that can be broken down into three parts and stuffed into a hocky bag. So now I can retrieve the tree without having to spot paint the stairwell walls afterward.

For now, I’ll skip the “fake tree versus real tree” or “colored lights versus white lights” or “matching decorations versus memory decorations” discussions and save them for when I write about decorating our own tree in New Hampshire. I’m going to need that kind of filler, else that post will read, “As usual, bought a tree that was too big for my ceiling height, had too many ornaments to hang—even with all the ones I dropped and broke, and took baby Jesus’ name in vain multiple times with him staring at me from about eight different boughs.”

Anyway, once my parents’ tree is Lazarus’d from the basement and Voltron’d together, it’s decorating time, with “decorating” meaning that we vainly attempt to keep fragile glass balls from being dropped by the pumpkin pie-sticky hands of my young nieces and nephew while sorting through all the Christmas ornaments that we’ve had for decades.

For instance, the ones that bear the dates of my and my brothers’s early years. Or the shriveled homemade ones we crafted in our respective kindergartens that are only about 70 years away from being official antiques. Or the ancient Coca-Cola Santa Claus and Disney pieces that superhuman marketing departments have shoehorned into our holiday traditions.

This year was no different. Except that I got to throw my own infant daughter into the merry fray and then had to spend a good portion of the time stopping her from fish-hooking her mouth with ornament hangers and pulling things off the bottom limbs of the tree. Oh, and I had to explain to my teary five-year-old niece what “blogging Christmas” actually meant. I guess it does sound like a horrible thing to do to a holiday.

I’m so thankful that it’s finally the Christmas season.


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