Tag Archives: Decorating for the Holidays

Christmas/Holiday Traditions

Growing up in the 60’s, times were different. We didn’t have the Internet, Facebook, or any social media, so staying in touch with people who lived far away was usually done during the holiday season with the sending of the yearly Christmas card. Nowadays, we can keep in touch with relatives and friends a dozen times zones away much easier – and for no postage costs! People still do, though, send out holiday greeting cards, a custom that was started around 1843 by a civil servant in England called Henry Cole. He and his friend John Horsley designed the very first cards and sold them for a shilling each. As the quality of printing improved and people earned more money for “extravagant” items, Christmas cards became more popular. Again, back before the cyberuniverse ruled the world, the postal service did the majority of its delivering during two holidays every year – Christmas and Mother’s day.

I’m going to be honest and tell you I haven’t sent out holiday cards in years. The people I want to keep in touch with, I do, all year round. Facebook has made it possible to connect and keep up with people much more easily than ever before. I simply don’t have the time or the inclination to sit down and send a card to someone I spoke with yesterday! IF that’s a little Scrooge-y, okay. I’ll own that.

 

Another thing that was different when I was growing up was the Christmas tree and the ornaments we decorated it with. I don’t have one memory that isn’t filled with the tree being filled with those awful and cheap glass ornaments in a variety of colors. they were horrendously made and produced — I feel — simply to shatter. Truly. If you walked near the tree a ball would fall to the floor no matter how well you’d secured it, and shatter into ten thousand shards of glass that was almost impossible to completely sweep or vacuum up. I distinctly remember walking in my living room when I was eight in July and getting my foot pierced by the sharp remnants of a fallen, broken ball. The very first decorations put on trees when they became popular in the 18th century was apples, oranges, and -God Help me!– lit candles. Hallmark began producing specialized ornaments during the 20th century to depict all manner of thing and today, most homes in America that put up a tree, have at least one Hallmark-inspired or made ornament. I’ve been honest on my Instagram account and share pictures of the 4 trees I have in my home. Almost all of my ornaments – except for the tree filled with ornaments from the countries I’ve traveled to – are Hallmark ornaments.

 

Do you put a candle in your window during the Christmas season ( or one in each window!!)?

This tradition means different things to people of different faiths. Christians liken a lit candle to the Star of Bethlehem, guiding the wise men to the manger. The lights from a Menorah symbolize the miracle of Chanukah when a single jug of oil burned for 8 solid days. Irish Catholics used to put candles in the window to denote that the house was safe for Priests to enter during the Protestant uprising when Priests were in danger of being put to death. I like candles in the window because to me they symbolize that the way home will always be lit for whoever wants to journey there. The Alabama song Candle in the Window exemplifies this thought.

There are so many traditions that people hold fast to during the holiday season. I think that’s what makes our shared humanity so wonderful. Different cultures and diverse religions bring many things to the table. WOuldn’t it be nice if we could all respect, honor, and enjoy one anothers traditions?
So ( you knew this was coming!) what are some of your favorite Holiday traditions. I’m going to pick one person who comments and send them an ecopy of my Christmas book A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS. So….talk to me.

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Why my Christmas Tree ornaments mean so much….

Memories can be captured several ways. I tend to like the physical way of remembering things – getting a program at a concert (despite the fact they are a gazillion dollars now!); keeping the seat stubs from a Broadway play. One way I love more than any other is the acquiring of Christmas tree ornaments. (BTW – that tree above is not one of mine!!!)

I routinely have 4 Christmas trees on display in my home each year.

Yeah…I know. But when you grow up poor, stuff takes on a new meaning when you have spending money!

Anyway….about those trees. Or more directly, the ornaments.

Since I’ve been married I’ve been acquiring ornaments of memories. I have one tree that is loaded with ornaments purchased from all the places around the world we have visited. I have another tree with all cooking and baking related ornaments because for several years I hosted an annual cookie swap with dozens of friends. As a thank you for them coming to my swap, they not only got cookies, but an ornament cooking/baking related for their own trees. I kept one for me each year.

My husband is not the lover of ornaments that I am…not even close! But there is one ornament that he insists get put up on our tree every year and it is the one he looks for when I’m done decorating. This is it:

Yes, that it a Goodwill box, and yes there is a tree sticking out of it. I want to tell you story behind this favored ornament.

Hubby moved to Wisconsin to start a new job six months before we got married. I stayed behind to plan the wedding and to finish up my Master’s degree. With just one course left, I didn’t want to leave until it was completed. Hubby was due to come back to NYC for our wedding which would take place the day after Christmas ( Boxing Day for you UK-ers). He had a small apartment that I would move into with him until we found our perfect house. As I’ve mentioned, Hubby is not the Christmas decorator in our family so the apartment was bare of all holiday accoutrement.

One day, on his way to work, he spotted a Goodwill box in the parking lot of the building he worked in. Sticking out of it was a fully tinseled Christmas tree, complete with the star at the top. Obviously, someone was going away for the holidays but didn’t want to just toss their tree into the garbage, electing to put it in the Goodwill box in the hopes some needy family would see it and have their own tree.

Hubby is a fast-on-his-feet thinker. He pulled the tree from the box- it still smelled fresh and evergreen-y – and drove it back to the apartment . The stand was attached ( smart donators!) so he filled it with water and went back to work. And that’s the way it stood in the apartment. No other decorations, just the tinsel and the star. He came home to NYC for a few days, we got married, and immediately flew back to Wisconsin because he didn’t have enough earned time for a honeymoon. Needless to say, when I saw the tree I was thrilled. And touched.

And then he told me the story of how he’d acquired the tree.

And I laughed because this is my hubby in a nutshell!

Of course, he had to share what he’d done with his co-workers before he left to get married. When he went back to work on Monday there was a wrapped gift from one of the people in his office. It was the above ornament, handcrafted by the husband of an officemate who is a woodworker. Every year now for the past 30 years that ornament sits in a place of honor on our Christmas tree and Hubby looks for it to make sure it’s there.

I love the thought of ornaments as platforms for memories. If I keep making more memories, though, I’m going to need a bigger house for all the trees!

I’ve got a Christmas book out that I hope makes memories for the people who read it. If you’re interested, here’s the link: A Kiss

And if you need to find me in cyberland, I’m usually here: Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me// Triber// Book Me

 

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