Many people have traditions regarding their Christmas trees. There are live (real) Christmas trees or artificial ones which at least don’t shed needles and don’t require the death of a live tree. Then there are the lights – multicolored, all white, or all blue. (My mother didn’t care for these, as they always made her think of families in mourning. But I digress.)
There’s also the question of what goes on top – star and angel are the most popular choices. Ornaments vary from old, family ones that represent children’s ages or antiques passed down; modern ornaments that all have the same look; or handmade ones, often made by children. (Our old friend John used to add modeled clay ornaments, including naked fertility goddesses, to celebrate the pagan origins of the holiday tree. But I digress again.) To tinsel or not to tinsel is another choice. If a pet gets into it, tinsel can cause intestinal blockages or festive poop.
My mother’s tradition certainly included handmade ornaments of a specific style – crocheted. Mom (for some unknown reason, my friends and family called her Muzz) had the needlework gene passed down from her mother, who knitted.
Her specialty was snowflakes. They allowed for creativity, as no two snowflakes are said to be the same. (I don’t know how that could be tested, aside from examining every snowflake that ever fell. More digression.) Muzz had a special process to ensure non-floppiness of the snowflakes – she laid them out flat and dosed them with Elmer’s glue. When it dried, she had snowflakes that stood up to anything and never melted.
The rest of her ornaments were multicultural gifts. She had a fair number of foreign penpals that she connected with through crochet magazines. They shared patterns and sometimes completed ornaments that represented their skill or their culture. Muzz even sent a friend in India a large bottle of Elmer’s for her crocheted items. Other people – friends, neighbors, and church ladies – gifted Muzz with ornaments they collected on their travels. Many of them were Santas. There is a stunning number of Santas in various poses available.
For the topper, her tradition was one that owed its origin to my dad. He always insisted that it should be an old, dilapidated angel every year. It had a little smudge on its face. It reminded him of the 1938 film Angels With Dirty Faces – not strictly speaking a Christmas movie, but one he always liked, notably the title. (It had a hella cast, too.) After my father died, Muzz kept up the tradition.
Muzz was not one of those who liked plastic trees or put them up right after Thanksgiving. (We have a friend who kept her artificial tree up well into the spring. She decked it with suitable ornaments for Valentine’s Day and Easter. Yet more digression.) In early to mid-December, we would take her out to a tree lot and help her pick one out. Later, when she had less mobility, Dan and I would choose one, discussing what she would like best. It couldn’t be too tall, since she wasn’t able to stand on a step stool to place the angel. She always seemed pleased with what we brought home.
Alas, some of those traditions have now lapsed, owing to the fact that Dan and I no longer get a tree. It seems like too much for just the two of us, not to mention that we have cats. (Digressions continue. A friend of mine used to hang soft, felt ornaments on the lower branches specifically for her cat to steal and leave in various places around their house. She kept count of the thefts every year.)
I don’t know. Maybe it would be worth it to hang a garland on our balcony railing, just to hang my mother’s ornaments on it.
What are your holiday traditions?