LESLIE CRISS: It’s the traditions of the season that mean the most

By Leslie Criss

“As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be, Christmas is.”
– Eric Sevareid

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
– Hamilton Wright Mabie
There was a time when I would have been made marvelously merry to have been allowed to decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving.
No more.
These days I am appalled that we do not allow Thanksgiving its tiny speck of time before moving toward Christmas.
Retailers deck their shelves earlier each year, some well before Halloween. And regular folks follow closely.
I grew up hearing stories about my father’s family in Coffeeville, going out on Christmas eve and cutting down a holly tree to decorate. That story struck fear in the heart of this I-want-to-decorate-early girl.
These days, not so much.
As I get older, I find I’m much more eager to slow it all down, wait, savor each second of the season.
I’ve asked some folks – regular not retail – their reasons for decorating early. Many say they do it when they have time. Most simply love Christmas.
I suppose I fall into that Christmas-loving category. I love the lights, the music, the colors, the kindness. And tradition.
My family has decorated for Christmas the same for as long as I can remember.
We each had our own tree-trimming tasks. They were never assigned. We just sort of assumed the responsibilities. Dad made sure the tree was in its stand, perfectly straight. Then he placed the angel or star atop the tree and later looped the lights.
Then he rested as my sister and I hung the ornaments, each with a story that conjured memories of people and places in our pasts. With an eager look of sheer expectation in her eyes, our mother waited her turn at the tree.
She waited for the icicles. Boxes and boxes and boxes of the shiny silver strands. And she used them all, every single one, sometimes sending Dad out for additional boxes.
We could help, but only if we’d do it her way – carefully, meticulously, one strand at a time. No flinging to let fall where they may. When she finished, the only bit of decoration still visible was the angel or star shining from on high.
Though I have little memory of any bad behavior on my part, we must have complained about her icicles for so many years that Mama finally caved in, giving up on her icicles.
Our tree topper was the only thing that really ever changed. For years we had an elegant angel we called Doty because she reminded my sister and me of our kindergarten teacher. Then there was an assortment of stars. Later, we returned to an angel in memory of our Aunt Roma.
Last year, I bought an elegant-looking angel for my tree and set her aloft in a place of prominence. It was my first Christmas without my mama and so this angel’s for her, in her memory. But something was missing.
So I bought a box of icicles, cut several strands down to size and glued them into one angel hand – as if she’s about to begin hanging them on her tree.

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