Sunday, January 3, 2010

O Tannenbaum

I dismantled and put away the tree yesterday. As much electricity and excitement as surrounds the annual assembly of the tree, its putting away is the time that affords the most reflection.

Putting up the tree is usually done in the midst of about 17 other things on the list. It's done on THE night that has been scheduled for it as THE ONLY time that it can be done between x, y, & z Holiday Affairs. It's fun and is not rushed, but it's done with purpose and a certain urgency. It's also an exercise in "wait, no- put that... hang on -just- PUT THAT BACK IN THE BOX UNTIL---" and so on. But it IS fun. Really.

(life: spread on the table, with a little help from my friend Peter)
Taking it down, however, is done because it's time, and because we need the dining room back. Considerably less urgent. Also, it seems to be regularly done at a time when I am seriously hungover mellow.

With that frame of mind, I set about removing every single item, and reflecting upon its origin. It is not insignificant that it comes at a time when there are plenty of *new* distractions around [ahem]WiiFit/DS[ahem] that are far more exciting than a boring old box of decorations.


We first got a tree the first year we were married, because that was the first year we decided to embark upon our Annual Christmas Party (keeps the number of parties easier to remember, as it's the number of years we've been married, which is now - um - a number that is quite impressive in its magnitudinousness, but I won't be sharing for uh... privacy - no, not math - reasons). We only had a few little decorations we had received as part of a wedding present (excellent idea for a wedding present, by the way!)

Because we lived in an apartment with "rules" (turned out we were the only ones who followed them), we went out & bought a nasty plastic tree which actually looked not too shabby. We bought some plain but pretty decorations - red & gold bead garlands and red & gold glass balls. The tree looked absolutely perfect - and just like the lobby of an stark office building. BUT, it was great, as in the back of my mind, I knew that it was something that had to grow with us.

And grow it has.

In a couple of pre-child years, I took it upon myself to buy & paint a whole bunch of plaster & wooden pre-fab decorations (upper right in the photo). The second year, we gave away many of the little plaster ones as party gifts (I think the only time we ever gave out party favours). They are some of my favourites to reflect upon, as it reminds me of some of the things I DID do pre-children that I could not very well do now. Like I didn't just sit around watching Law & Order the whole time.

Others have come from friends as small "cheat" gifts. We have always had a no gifts agreement amongst our friends, but some have periodically figured there's a loophole for Christmas decorations; it's not a "gift" if you hide it for 11 months of the year!* (Also, it's not a gift if you can chug it consume it within fourteen days...) (Also, I think it's possible most people refer to these "cheat" gifts with the more politically sensitive term: "host" gifts. I'm not very good with semantics sometimes. Or grace.)

One year I added a flock of crystal-y geese. Not so Christmassy, but wintery and pretty. Also, a "band" of little cherubs with different instruments.

When we moved into our house, we switched to a real tree (that is to say, the "naturally grown & unceremoniously chopped down and dragged in a death-march to our door" tree, as Norah would be quick to point out that our plastic tree is, in fact, "real", as well). The first thing we invested in on that front was a magnificent Lee Valley Stand - tree has *never* even wobbled or given a hint of tipping (says "no longer available" gasp!) - and the tin stars and tin-tinsel as well.

Then came the kids decorations. They make them at school and at home. There are some with snapshots of time (a handprint or hand printing). They spend hours every year making snowflakes (my favourite is the "pizza snowflake" - draw a pizza and then make a snowflake out of it) and poke them on the ends of branches. This year Norah bought a book of Christmas crafts at the book fare and all three of them made several spectacular items.

In more recent years, my dad has seemed to perpetuate a very informal tradition of showing up one day in early December with a new decoration from 10,000 Villages for each of the kids. I probably wouldn't have even realized that it was a regular thing, except for the moment we spend with each one at take down time.

Lastly, every year, my cheap, bargain-hunting-born-&-bred local instincts have sent me out after Christmas, nabbing those 60% off decorations here and there. Just those things that are absolutely stunning (and - since it's 60% off - no longer make me choke on what they "normally" expect you to pay). This year, I've picked up some lovely snowflakes (three different patterns, representing the fact that all snowflakes are different!)(OK, so I couldn't find matching ones), and some TINY DISCO BALLS! I was thrilled to find some last year, only to discover this year that they weren't actually hanging decorations, but meant to just toss in a bowl (a bizarre concept if you ask me, but they're in a bowl, as directed). It's like an early Christmas present when you crack open the box next year, because I never seem to remember what I got the previous year.


So yeah! Took down the tree yesterday & got totally retro and introspective. I swear I wasn't high, either. But Peter totally was.

*[NOTE to Those Who Might Think They Have a Brilliant Idea: This is not a hint! I'm quite happy with the current rate of growth of our collection]

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  1. This is why your Xmas stuff looks all artistic and amazing. Because you have parties, and you can face those after-Christmas sales. I can't make myself go back to the mall until at least February.

  2. I totally love going through the CT after christmas Stock sales. they have so many things different from the big Card company decorations.