There’s no denying it, the holiday season has arrived. Santa is holding court at the local mall. Holiday deals are arriving in my inbox, fast and furious. My neighbours are all putting up their lights. And my Instagram stream is chock-a-block with photos of people’s trees.
I love Christmas. It’s by far my favourite holiday. I love Christmas music, and Christmas candy, and I even kind of like Christmas shopping. There’s just something about all the decorations and the bustle and the ritual of preparing for a celebration. If you strip away the layers of modern commercialism and the mayhem of the parking lot, there’s something timeless and deeply meaningful. People have been marking this time of year since long before there even was a Christmas, and they’ve been marking Christmas itself for countless generations. I love the sense of tradition and history involved in acts like preparing a holiday feast and setting up the Christmas tree.
In spite of my love for Christmas, however, I am a bit of a holiday holdout on a few fronts. The one that is currently causing the most stress in my home is my obstinate refusal to set up the tree any more than two weeks before Christmas. My children ask me every morning, now, if today is the day we can set up the tree. Every morning I repeat, once again, that it is not. Every afternoon they wheedle and whine and cajole. Please, please, please, Mama, please! I remain unmoved.
As a child, we waited to put up a tree because we had a real one, and we knew that if we put it up too early it would whither and die and drop needles everywhere before Christmas even happened. And so, from the time I was very young I had a family tradition of holding out on the tree until mid-December or later. Today I have a fake tree (to my great sadness – I miss the smell and the outing to choose the tree a whole lot), but I honour my childhood tradition. In part, because I see no reason to rush towards Christmas. But even more, because I know that anything loses its novelty after a while, even the tree. If I put it up too early the excitement around it will have vanished before the presents even arrive.
Looking back through my own archives, it seems I have this same internal debate every year. In 2009, I held out because I had a young toddler. In 2010, I objected to the idea that trees were going up while it was still November and I was still thinking about autumn. In 2011, I was equal parts lazy and nostalgic, not wanting to rush things. Every Christmas I see many trees popping up in front windows around my neighbourhood long before I’m ready to put mine up. Every year, my children object.
Christmas happened last year
There’s one thing I do know for sure, and it’s that Christmas will come. My kids will wake me up way too early on the morning of December 25th. I’ll drag my reluctant husband from his bed. We’ll come downstairs, to discover that magic has happened. The stockings, hung by the chimney with care, will be stuffed full. The plate of cookies left for Santa will be empty, but for a few crumbs. Presents will be under the tree, and lights will be glittering, as heirlooms passed from person to person within my family look down on us.
My children, with the impatience of their age, want to hurry the Christmas magic by putting up the tree as soon as possible. On the other hand with the nostalgia of my age, I want to follow my personal traditions, and let things come at what I deem their proper time. We are at an impasse. It is an impasse that will reach a natural resolution every year, as the tree inevitably goes up. Until the day that happens, though, the conflict will continue.
When do you put your tree up? And do your holiday preparations involve any negotiation with your children? I’d love to hear!