Decorating with History

I spent this weekend putting up the outside Christmas lights and finishing the indoor Christmas decorations after a week of procrastinating. While doing so, it occurred to me that decorating for Christmas is like enjoying Christmas in advance. Opening the boxes and totes of decorations is like opening presents; each one brings back memories of when it was first placed on the tree. This is particularly poignant with “first Christmas” ornaments—whether “baby’s first Christmas” or “Our First Christmas.”

When we pull out the decorations, we put on Santa Hats and play some Christmas music on the stereo so we get sufficiently jolly. Last year, I organized and labeled the totes so they were easier to find and sort. Of course, we still had a hard time finding some of the decorations that we knew we had; but the fun of discovery of the decorations we forgot we had made up for it. We started a tradition on our first Christmas of making an ornament from scratch each year; and we make a point of putting them on right after the base ornaments.

Base ornaments you ask? I know every family has its own way of decorating a tree and some people are quite adamant on their idea of the proper way of trimming the tree. Some say the tree topper goes first, others insist that it should be the last thing to go on and that dad has to be the one to do it. Some insist on garland while others prefer icicles. Well, our way of decorating is two strings of c7 lights first, then several strands of mini lights (including on musical twinkling strand) and then the three sizes of glass ball ornaments; big ornaments on bottom, mid-sized ornaments in the middle and smaller ones on the top of the tree. After the glass orbs, we put on the artistic ornaments, including the home made ones.

Each ornament has a story and a special place on the tree. The long sea shell was a gift from my mom after her Bahamas cruise. The Lionel train was given to me by my dad, a long-time model train enthusiast. The acrylic angel has to go in front of a white c7 bulb in the front of the tree. The mirrored cube has to be nestled in a bundle of mini-lights to reflect the most color. The angel goes on top after all the others are in place.

The tree is not the only decorations with stories. We have the hallmark singing snowman and snow dog that I won at a Christmas party at work. We have the cheap Wal-Mart nativity set that looks like the one mom and dad had for years while I was growing up. We have the Christmas bear that sits on the bookcase that one of my Aunts made. I cannot forget to mention the wooden Noel sign that Michelle gave me the first Christmas in the house. So many decorations that have stories and history of their own that they almost take on a life of their own.

Yes, Christmas means celebrating love and life and giving of one’s self to others. But it is also a great opportunity to celebrate family by opening the gifts of history that are our traditions. When opening your decorations this year, take a moment to remember when you got them and listen to the stories they tell you. They are your stories after all. It’s like an early Christmas.

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