Sunday, December 9, 2007

Joy to the world.

Yesterday Bill and I tried to take our Christmas decorating to the next level by hanging icicle lights on our house. We've done it before and it wasn't that big of a deal but for some reason this year we just couldn't get it together.

Bill was the main man in charge and I was his lovely assistant. He stood on the porch railing trying to figure out how we did this in the past while I bent paperclips into little hooks and handed them to him. He was kind of irritable and it didn't help that that half the lights were shorting out and really loud cars kept speeding past our house. His irritability wore off on me (or was it the other way around? you never can tell...) and soon I was so frustrated that we weren't enjoying this Christmas tradition that I called the whole thing off.

So, no lights on our house this year. They were kind of ugly anyway. We do have a wreath and might get some garland but only if it's more user friendly than the lights.

The whole situation got me thinking (out loud): where's the joy? Shouldn't hanging lights on your house be all warm and fuzzy and possibly involve hot chocolate? I'm pretty sure Christmas is supposed to be merry, not stressful.

I sulked around the house for a while until Bill finally convinced me to go somewhere. I had to pick up some pictures from Costco and decided I'd stop off at Target to look for Christmas cards on the way. Big mistake. I may not know where to find Christmas joy but I can tell you one thing: it isn't out shopping. Being at that store full of zombies snapping at each other while they filled their carts with stuff they didn't need and probably couldn't afford all in the sake of holiday consumerism made me want to run home and hide out for the rest of the season. What the heck happened to Christmas?

This has always been my favorite time of year but now that I'm really thinking about it, I can't say why. Thinking back to childhood it seems like it was all about anticipation. My sister and I would make a Christmas countdown chain out of red and green construction paper and then fight over who got to tear off the ring each day. We'd run to the door when we heard the UPS truck and almost fall over dead with excitement if it actually stopped in front of our house. We would lay in bed at night and talk about what we thought we might get from Santa. Sometimes we'd even shake the presents under the tree to see if we could figure out what was inside (later, when my sister was home alone after school, she'd just open her gifts and re-wrap them).

It's starting to sound like all my joy of Christmas past revolved around presents. Is that possible? Could the one thing I hate about Christmas be what I used to love most?

No, it can't be. I mean, sure, I loved opening presents as much as the next kid. But, for me, it wasn't about the stuff, it was about the tradition (even though it wasn't all that traditional). My typical childhood Christmas was spent at home with just the four of us. On Christmas Eve we would eat a quick dinner (like taquitos) and then pile in my dad's Jeep to go drive around Hidden Valley and look at Christmas lights. When we got home, we would turn on Christmas music like Amy Grant or Elvis, put on the matching Christmas nightgowns my Aunt Jill bought us one year, and take turns opening gifts. I would always look forward to watching people open what I got them (usually something I made in art class) and opening the ornament and $50 check my Uncle Jack and Aunt Lue sent every year. After we opened all of the gifts, we would hang our stockings on the nice clean fireplace (my dad cleans it out every year so Santa doesn't land in a pile of ashes), set out some cookies and eggnog, and go to bed early. In the morning, whoever woke up first would wake everyone else and we'd all go into the living room together. The tree lights would be on - proof that Santa had been there! - and our stockings would be full of candy, bath stuff, walnuts, an orange, and emery boards. We usually got one non-stocking gift, too. One year we got a dollhouse (I wanted it for soooo long yet still haven't finished building it), another year a basketball hoop, and in high school we got our very own phone line! We'd sit around the tree, looking at all of our stuff and eating sausage balls or Entenmens cheese danish. After a bath with my new bubbles and soaps, we'd drive up to Tahoe and go sledding. (In all honesty, we probably only did that a couple of times but it still feels like a Day family tradition.) And that was it - Christmas!

You know what? I'm fooling myself if I think Christmas is any different now than it used to be. I guarantee you my dad never put up the Christmas lights without yelling at one of us or swearing loudly to himself or falling off the roof (at least once). In retrospect it looks all joyful and merry and flocked in snowy goodness but in reality, it's a lot of work! Not to mention all the built up expectations. No wonder people at Target are so grouchy!

I think I'll just ignore all the expectations and do what I want to do instead of what I think I'm supposed to do. Do I want to spend a Saturday afternoon fighting with my husband about little dangling lights? No! I'd rather sit on the couch drinking mulled wine and watching Christmas Vacation for the 879th time. I'm feeling more joyful already!

Our attempt at getting a Christmas card worthy photo was as successful as the outside lights.

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