As I have stated many times on this blog, I love Christmas. I love the time leading up to Christmas, the songs, the spirit, the sense that people seem, even though somewhat harried, to be kinder, more cheerful. I believe the editor of the New York Sun who wrote to Virginia O’Hanlon in 1897 in response to her query in his editorial titled “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Virginia’s friends had told her there was no Santa Claus. He said, “How dreary would the world be if there was no Santa Claus…..there would be no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence…..the eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.” That’s why I always tell people that I believe in Santa. This is the sensibility that I love in this wonderful season. Maybe seeing the world this way is just wishful thinking on my part, especially in a year when we grasp at anything that makes the world seem better. But I truly love all the magic around Christmas.
This year we were gifted with an early Thanksgiving which usually means a more relaxed prep time for Christmas, having gained that extra week to shop, to bake, to make merry. But my husband’s college alma mater was playing in a basketball tournament in Belfast, Ireland this year and we decided to go with some friends on a wonderful trip to Northern Ireland to roam around, discover this part of Ireland to which we had never been, and then cheer on the team during that final week of November thus cutting us off from that jump start to the holidays. It was all worth it because we enjoyed every second of our time in Ireland (minus the last five minutes of game 1 when our team lost!). And Ireland itself was already so dressed up for Christmas that it easily fed my spirit!
The pace since our return has been non-stop. This past week, our first full week back, was filled with parties and get-togethers with friends and family, always a brilliant kick off to the season. Then this past few days were defined by decorating, choosing our Christmas tree, gift shopping and wrapping.
We always buy our tree at the local animal farm which serves as a way to help support the work of the farm and provides us with a beautiful selection of trees and other greenery every year. While my husband and I steadfastly adhere to the tradition of a real tree, we have little patience for the actual exercise of picking it out. So our tradition is that my husband sets his stop watch as we enter the farm to see how long it takes us to pick out the centerpiece of our home decoration. This year our search took a full 10 minutes! Somehow through the years using this method, we always end up with a beautiful tree that we are proud to display. Our tree this year is a balsam fir beauty which we noted is slightly larger and taller than our trees in other years.
We decorate every room of our first floor and finished basement. Every day we finished another piece, with our tree being the last to get done. I love the transformation of the house into a place where around every corner there is a vignette of Christmas flowers, old decorations that bring back Christmases past and loved ones now gone, and my various Nativity scenes that remind us of the true meaning of Christmas.
I must say that when we finished decorating the tree, I was feeling pretty good. Feeling that with the tree done, things were under control. I gamely went out and finished my shopping, making huge progress there too! Driving back home, so ebullient was I that I switched from MSNBC on Sirius and away from the dismal political banter and changed to the AM station that plays holdays songs 24/7! As I listened, I thought through my plan to sit leisurely that evening in our family room next to our beautiful tree and write Christmas cards.
Just then I saw that I had a message on my phone from our home security system indicating that something had set off the alarm. I called home. My husband answered. I asked him what was going on and he said, “What a mess! The tree fell over. The breaking glass set off the alarm.” Ugh! In forty years, we have never had that happen. I’ve had friends to whom this has happened, with one of them so frustrated with the tree that he javelined it out the front door! So on the rest of my drive home, I realized how thankful I was that there was no break-in but I envisioned what awaited me. Broken ornaments all over the floor, the tree in tatters, water from the tree stand damaging my floor.
When I walked into my home, along with my husband there were two of our dear neighbors helping him upright the tree! While it was certainly a mess of sorts, it was far less than I had foreseen. Actually very few of my ornaments, collected over the years from friends and during our travels, were lost.
The problem seemed to be that the trunk of the tree was not straight, creating the instability. My husband and our neighbors cut off the crooked part of the trunk, which was fortunately at the bottom, and solidly repositioned a shorter, more edited but sturdier tree in a new larger stand that my husband ran out and bought. So forget the cards; that night would be for redecorating the tree.
All in all, we were actually hindered only slightly. The cards will wait for another day. It could have been much worse. I do believe it was partly Virginia, her letter and the editor’s wise response that got me to recognize this insignificant setback for what it was. Relatively nothing in the scheme of things. All’s well that ends well – now back to the magic of Christmas!