Oh Christmas Tree!

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WENDY HODGE

By WENDY HODGE

Forget the midterm elections and the political campaigns. The real question, the one that is truly on everyone’s mind (whether they admit it or not), is this: “When is it too early/late enough to put up my Christmas tree?”

Typically, the people asking this question are divided into two categories:

You have your holiday-Hallmark-movie-watching crowd, all hyped up on hot cocoa and online savings who are chomping at the bit to dig into the dozens of color-coordinated storage bins labeled “Nativity Scenes” and “Dancing Santas.” They are the folks who have begun sneaking boxes up from the basement and down from the attic, stashing them in corners and under beds, just waiting for the chance to crack them open and festoon every bare surface in the house with holiday swag. They’ve been listening to Christmas music on their car stereos and in secret on their phones during their lunch breaks. They have been shopping for weeks, packages arriving in brown Amazon boxes and orange Shutterfly envelopes and stashed in the closet so no one will peek. Their Christmas sweaters are hanging ready in the closet, all tinsel and cotton puffs. When they dream at night, it is of the looks on everyone’s faces when they see how perfectly the tree will shine, how delicious the buffet spread will taste and how spot-on the gifts will be.

And in the other camp, you have the die-hard Thanksgiving traditionalists. They want to “just enjoy Turkey Day before you bring out all that Christmas stuff, for crying out loud!” They ignore the decoration crates in the corner and pretend they don’t hear Bing Crosby drifting from down the hall. They are content to wear shorts and T-shirts because November in Alabama is only cold in a bipolar kind of way. They plan to watch “Die Hard” on Christmas Eve because everyone in their right mind knows that’s the perfect Christmas movie — but only when Christmas Day is clearly on the horizon. Shopping hasn’t even entered the periphery of their mind. There are still more than 30 days to go before the gift deadline. Besides, what fun is Christmas if you aren’t racing around at the very last minute with no idea of what to buy and limited funds with which to buy it? When they dream at night, it is of turkey and dressing, of a quiet house at last and of the Iron Bowl (War Eagle! or Roll Tide! whatever the case may be).

I find myself straddling the two camps, one foot firmly in the “Let’s wait and enjoy Thanksgiving” arena but feeling a definite tug from the “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” crowd. I’ve been shopping for weeks, that’s true. Gifts are organized and ready to be wrapped. Wrapping paper and bows are lined up, waiting to be cut and taped. I have thus far avoided Christmas movies, but Mariah Carey and the Vienna Boys’ Choir have mysteriously popped up on the Pandora station at work. (I may or may not be responsible for that.) Last week, I secretly bought a half-gallon of eggnog and drank it on the down low. I do hear the siren song of the Christmas tree and the ornaments and trim that are waiting patiently for the day after Thanksgiving to arrive, but so far I’ve managed to ignore it.

That’s the day we’ve settled on, Tim and I — the day after Thanksgiving. We’ll both be off work, the fridge will be stocked with leftovers from our turkey feast the day before and the Iron Bowl will be the focus of Saturday. We most definitely will not be out shopping the sales, so Black Friday it is!

Meanwhile my friends on social media are engaged in a healthy debate about when it is actually appropriate to decorate fully for Christmas. One friend cited an article in Good Housekeeping, which recommends waiting until the fourth Sunday of November, otherwise known as Advent. Another said the first day of December because of the rotation of the earth. (This is the same “friend” who very publicly believes the earth is flat.) More folks seem to agree with the weekend of Thanksgiving idea, simply because it’s a long weekend. One poor soul suggested Christmas morning … I can’t picture that, honestly. Where’s the fun in that?

But, in the end, it all comes down to this — as long as you don’t hurt anybody, do what makes your Christmas happy for you. Don’t worry about what Good Housekeeping’s editor thinks or what the ancient Roman calendar says about the cycle of the seasons. Hang a holly wreath on the door in August if you want to. Put an inflatable Rudolph on the lawn in April. Wrap presents in September and deck the halls in mid-July. If it makes you merry (like Michael Bublé singing White Christmas makes me jolly), then go for it!

And if you need a secret eggnog drinking partner, holler at me!

May we all enjoy the season!

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