This past weekend was one of the best in a long time, and it was all thanks to simple traditions. My family set up our Christmas tree, which is one of my all-time favorite family events. Despite the fact that my husband and I are not religious, we continue celebrating Christmas each year due to the traditions and memories around it. We both grew up in Christian homes and had parents who created warm, loving memories around this major holiday. Decorating the tree was a favorite for us both, so we’ve chosen to continue this, blending our families’ methods and creating a few of our own to pass on to our daughter.
I have always insisted on setting the tree up the day after Thanksgiving, barely able to even wait that long to start the fun of the anticipation of the holiday. My husband always rolled his eyes at my childlike excitement, but he always indulged me and hauled the tree out of the storage unit for me as soon as the turkey leftovers were put away.
We would then proceed to debate over white versus colored light; he was in favor of all white lights, saying it was more “classy.” I like the colored lights because it’s more “classic” – at least in my family. After the first two years of debates, we agreed to switch each year. Same with garland; I like it, he doesn’t, so every other year it goes on the tree. We used to put the ornaments on one at a time, talking about the story behind each one and explaining why it should be located on the tree wherever we’d put it. It was a several hour-long process that usually involved a glass of Bailey’s and milk or a couple glasses of wine.
This year, things were different. It is technically our daughter’s second Christmas, but considering that she was only three weeks old last year, we’re counting this as her first ‘real’ Christmas, as she actually notices and cares what’s going on around her this time.
We were a few days late getting the tree up due to other life events going on, but we did still manage to get it up in the Thanksgiving weekend. I didn’t mind one bit being a couple of days ‘late’, as we had still spend the whole weekend together as a family and had a great time.
We’ve had a fake tree the past six years, and as we were putting it together we both agreed that this would be our last year going the faux route. Even though a real tree will be a challenge with a toddler and two dogs, the authenticity and feeling of a real tree is worth it. We want our daughter to experience picking out her own tree, and then enjoying the smell of it every day for a month, and participating in the clean up of it. What a wonderful way to help celebrate and fully appreciate the hard work that goes into such an ornate decoration.
Once the tree was up, we had it wrapped up in lights and garland within ten minutes. Easily a record. The speed was partially due to trying to get it all up before out daughter became too entangled in it, but also because there was no debating over whose year it was. Honestly, I’m pretty sure it was my husband’s year for his white lights, but he didn’t even hesitate to grab the colors and start stringing them.
“She likes the colors,” he said smiling and nodding toward our daughter who was fascinated with a string of colored lights already plugged in. I smiled back and started unpacking the ornaments.
We only had about half an hour to get the ornaments up, as it was nearing our daughter’s dinnertime, but half an hour ended up being just perfect. We picked out the breakable ornaments, or those with sharper edges, and hung them high, while adorning the bottom limbs with the soft and sturdier decorations. It only took about ten minutes. We spent the remaining twenty watching her explore the tree, pulling at the ornaments set low for her, and smiling with her when she found the ones that jingle. It was the best tree decorating time we’d ever had as a family.
I am already excited to continue the tree-gazing tradition with my daughter, as she and I always get up a few hours earlier than the rest of the house. We usually rock and read in the living room before some quiet play and breakfast. For the next month, however, we’ll be snuggling up in the den and admiring the tree together, just as my mom did with me. I know I am more excited about it than her this year, but I’m hoping this will become a tradition she loves as much as I have all these years.
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