O Tannenbaum!

I am the original Charlie Brown.  If sent to a Christmas tree lot I will pick the shortest, lopsided-ist, needle dropping-ist, skinny-ist tree there is and think it looks perfect.  And in the dimly lit Christmas tree lot propped up against a makeshift wooden fence, all the trees look perfect.  Then you take it home and set it up in your living room and wait for it to warm up so the “branches drop” and there sits your perfect Christmas tree; too short, lopsided, raining pine needles all over your carpet and much less full than it was next to the thirty or forty other trees.  So this year, after readjusting and realigning the tree several times and waiting for one side of the branches to drop while the other side is dragging the floor I got a case of the “3 year olds” and asked ….. WHY?

Why do we bring a dead tree into our house every year and decorate it with lights and ornaments and celebrate around it, then a week later put all the decorations back up in our attic and throw the poor old dead tree out?  So off to the History Channel’s website I went.  Basically I can thank Queen Victoria for making Christmas trees popular.  In 1846 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who were extremely popular among their British subjects (i.e. Prince William and Kate or Lady Di before her death), were illustrated in the London News standing in front of a Christmas tree.  So of course everyone in Britain then had to have a Christmas tree so they could be like the Queen.  And then of course once they were doing something fashionable in England it had to become fashionable in America as well.

But why did the Queen have a Christmas tree?  Because her husband Prince Albert was German and since the 16th century having a Christmas tree as part of your Christmas celebration was tradition in Germany.  Again… WHY?  Because the evergreens and actually any plant or tree that remains green all year have been highly regarded by people since the beginning of mankind.  Dating back to early Romans and Egyptians and even the Druids and Celts, while celebrating the Winter Solstice would hang boughs of evergreen to remind themselves that spring would soon return and everything would be warm and green again.  So I can kinda get into that… as I hate all things cold, snowy and wintery.  They also thought that the evergreen would ward off witches, evil spirits, ghosts and illness.  Good to know my lopsided hastily decorated Douglas Fir will ward off ghosts.  I will have to tell Teagan as she and her brother were caught watching Ghost Adventures the other day after being told not to since it gives Teagan nightmares.  “The Christmas tree will protect you – no really it will – go sleep under it.”

German immigrants to America brought their Christmas tree tradition with them but it didn’t catch on with other Americans.  Christmas trees were seen as Pagan symbols – even as late as the 1840’s.  My tree this year may actually be considered a Pagan symbol with its one side dragging the floor and the other side 3 feet off the ground – well at least by suburban soccer mom standards which require trees to be perfectly conical.  The pilgrim puritans preached against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees or any joyful expression that desecrated the sacred event.  My guess is that there are Puritan ministers rolling over in their graves these days.  Especially if they’ve ever heard “Last Christmas” – the absolute worse Christmas song known to man yet covered by nearly every recording artist since 1984 when Wham! first released it.

In 1659 in Massachusetts the General Court enacted the “Clark W. Griswold” law making any celebration of December 25 other than church service illegal and subject to fines.  OK, so it may not have actually been called the “Griswold” law however people were fined for decorating for Christmas.  I would vote for a re-enactment of that law, not for religious reasons, but because I cannot compete with some of these extravagant light displays my neighbors have put up.

All “Griswold” laws were eventually repealed especially in the 19th century when the German and Irish immigrants came in wielding their wildly decorated evergreens.  I like my version of history sometimes better than what actually happened as I picture comic book hero-like German and Irishmen swooping in with trees all pimped out and the Puritans holding out their Bibles to try to stop them.  I really should consider teaching 8th grade history, my version is much better than Dawson’s book.  Anyway – then came the Queen Victoria illustration and by the 1890’s most American’s had Christmas trees.  Well except for Jewish families… they don’t have Christmas trees.

So unless I become a Puritan,  or Jewish, or William and Kate are featured in some article denouncing Christmas trees as environmentally unfriendly (Teddy Roosevelt did that when he was President – but it didn’t catch on – obviously) I will again next year take my Charlie Brown ass to the tree lot and pick out another lopsided monstrosity of a tree.  In case you’re wondering I also don’t have any better luck with artificial trees as the easy to assemble pre-lit one I own is no longer pre-lit and I can’t find the 1 tiny light causing the issue.  If the Germans couldn’t find a suitable tree they used to build a pyramid of wood and set candles and decorations on it – maybe I could try that at least it would be conical.   I like that word… conical.  Say it again… conical. (I swear I’m not drinking eggnog!)

(Sigh)…………… Well I don’t see us converting to Judaism any time soon so I could always contend I’m Puritan and that’s why my house isn’t decorated…. Right?

 

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A Christmas Story

This is more specifically my Christmas Story.  It’s not filled with wishes for a Red Ryder BB Gun or a Major Award like a Leg Lamp.  I actually don’t remember ever having that ONE THING on a Christmas list that I just had to have – of course there were toys or games or whatever the latest greatest thing was.  Always at the top of my list was a pony and I did get one eventually when I was 13 – but not for Christmas.  So I did a few searches to see what the Top Christmas Toy was in 1981 – when I was 10 – the same age my daughter is now.  The best I can come up with is a Rubik’s Cube and the game Donkey Kong for Atari.  I know I had a Rubik’s Cube but we never had an Atari.

So my Christmas Story isn’t about wanting a specific present.  It’s about the little things I remember growing up as a kid around Christmas.  And I owe this blog to my Meemaw.  That’s what we called my grandma when we were growing up.  I’m not a very Christmas-y person.  And last night I was working on a Love/Hate blog about Christmas and it wasn’t going like I wanted it to so I quit and went to bed.  I had a dream and in the dream I was the age I am now (you can all do the math based on being 10 in 1981) and I had Teagan’s dog Princess with me (possibly because she was wrapped around my feet last night) but I was in my mom’s kitchen and my Meemaw was there and she was cooking Christmas breakfast.  There was scrambled eggs and bacon and toast with jelly and orange rolls.  She reached down and scolded Princess for trying to eat bacon.  And then I woke up.

It was one of those really vivid dreams.  It was so real when I woke up I was trying to figure out where exactly I was.  And I laid there for a few minutes just remembering what Christmas was like when I was a kid. Christmas Nana

See that was what Christmas morning breakfast looked like when I was growing up.  (PS I was adorable wasn’t I?)  But it was so much more than just breakfast.  There were decorations and candles everywhere.  In the large picture window facing the road Meemaw put up an artificial tree decorated with gold lights and gold ornaments and gold garland.  Downstairs was where we put the live tree with colored lights and funky handmade ornaments a silver “icicles” which Meemaw complained about because “she was sweeping them up until February.”  I had a stocking for my cat “Calico” and Kim had one for her dog “Muffin” and we hung them on the 1960’s era fake fireplace that still hangs on the wall downstairs in my mom’s house.  I don’t think it works anymore but maybe we could ship it to the guy who does that “American Restoration” show on the History channel.

We had a small white porcelain tree with multicolored lights that sat on top of my mom’s piano.  And these little figurines that were people dressed up like candy canes – also that sat on top of the 1960’s era fake fireplace.  There was always a bowl full of assorted nuts and a wooden nutcracker placed somewhere in the house.  When I was about 10 or 11 my mom bought a ceramic Santa train that came in 3 parts and was unfinished and the three of us painted and then mom sealed it.  I have that train and it usually gets placed on my mantel.  Visualize it in your head because I still don’t have my decorations out so I can’t put a picture of it on here.  And I still have my Santa Light that my pre-school teacher Mrs. Frederick gave me when I was 4.  It’s about a 2 ft tall plastic 1970’s looking Santa and there is a hole in the back that fits a night light size light.  Yes it still works.

So these are all the things that make up my Chistmas Story.  Everyone has a different one which is kinda why I decided to write this.  My grandma passed away when I was 25 and my Dad’s mom passed away when I was 18.  Both my grandpa’s passed away long before I was a twinkle in anyone’s eye.  And growing up Meemaw lived with us and my Dad’s mom lived in Florida (and she only spoke Spanish so communication between her and I was limited).  So I never went to a grandparent’s house for Christmas.  For the most part, even after my grandma’s passing, the way my family celebrated Christmas didn’t change much.  The only real change is now we usually celebrate Christmas at my house instead of my Mom’s and we don’t have all the candles and assorted nuts and the fancy all gold tree, but still mostly the same for me.

But for my husband the past several years of Christmas have been a big change.  His grandmothers both only recently passed away which has changed the landscape of Christmas for him.  When he was growing up Christmas morning meant opening presents as fast as you could because they had to be at church and then they drove to one grandma’s house for lunch and the other grandma’s for dinner.  And even though since we’ve been married we usually could only make one or the other – we still went.  This year the biggest change is that his Aunt who normally hosts Christmas has moved to a smaller house and isn’t planning on having Christmas dinner.  So I feel bad for him.  It’s hard to start new traditions – because every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.  I hope this new beginning for him will give him and our kids new and great Christmas memories.

And just so my Dad and Marilyn don’t feel left out…..  I remember something totally silly from Christmas at their house.  They had the fancy satin ornaments decorated with what I thought at the time were real jewels.  Marilyn had a matryoshka doll (Russian stacking doll) — I don’t remember if it was only out a Christmas or not but I loved that doll.  And just so we can relive some of my Dad’s awesome 1970’s hair ……

dad cmas

Nice shirt too….. love the 70’s.  (PS again see how adorable I was – by the way that is a rockin’ matched Garanimal outfit and I’m betting I had on my Wonder Woman underoos too)

So here’s to embracing new traditions.  Thanks Meemaw for reminding me about the good parts of Christmas and what it was like when I was a kid – it’s really hard to call her that because after my nephew and niece were born she was always called Nana.  I hope my kids are making memories that they to will someday cherish.  And I hope Dave is looking forward to all the new Christmas traditions ahead of us.

Now…. I should probably put up some “Christmas Decorates” (that’s a Dawson-ism from when he was 3).