Last night, we went to a “Christmas Party” for our small group. We do it every year. Potluck, gift exchange and games. This year, we added in tree decorating.
The potluck aspect is always awesome. We like the element of adventure and the food. We never tell each other what we will bring. Its half the fun. Sometimes we have three desserts, other times three varieties of pasta. It makes life and dining interesting. I made curry noodles, someone else lasagna, then there was a Caesar salad, apple pie and candy cane whoopee pies. Om nom nom.
Gift exchanges are also of sheer awesomeness. We each buy something under $10 and wrap it. Patrick and I were a little pressed for wrapping surprises, so I took out my sharpies and “decorated” a David’s Tea bag and a Chapters bag. Fooled everyone into thinking the bags actually contained something from those stores. Anyway, we draw names and each person whose name is drawn can either pick a gift or steal an already opened one. This year minimal brawls broke out. I got a milk frothing/hot chocolate kit. Very excited to try it out. Of note, Patrick got a mini basketball net and a ball. I am curious to see where that is going to appear within the house.
This year, A&P decided we would help decorate their tree. The theory behind things was that they felt we couldn’t have a Christmas gift exchange sans tree. The cause for decorating arose from the fact that A is a teacher and it is parent-teacher/report card week and she becomes excessively distressed (fairly not healthy, I am certain).
First task- put the lights on. Simple enough? No. A has a certain format for putting the lights on “so they look like they are in the tree, not just on it.” Her husband is no longer allowed to help. She had a series of chairs around the tree, so she could reach the top and slowly, ever so slowly circled the tree to put the lights “just so.” It took an hour and three people. Meanwhile, the rest of us changed the decoration hangers from one set of festive balls to another because they are trying for a new theme. You see, P feels that trees need to have a theme. And this has been an area of struggle for A&P to settle on a theme. So, we had some charming santas with instruments ornaments on which the tags were still attached and I was not permitted to remove them, as they may decide they don’t fit the theme and will need to be returned. The new balls come from the notion that having just gold or too much gold wouldn’t be good, so a balance of red, green and gold would be better. The tree theme is red, green and gold with santas and sleighs. With an angel on top. By the time the lights were on, we all put up decorations and tried to hide tags. There were no ornaments on the back, and they were appropriately spaced. It was pretty. The tree was against the window, so the lights look nice outside and we could enjoy the ornaments inside. The tree skirt was white, so the cat hair wouldn’t be noticeable, though apparently one time the cat threw up on it and that was noticeable until cleaned up.
During the decorating process we talked about some of our own family Christmas traditions and tree preferences. Most of us are not pro-theme like P is. Some like a more broad based theme. Some of us had real trees, others fake ones. Most of us had electric lights, but our Eastern European friend had real candles and actually celebrated Christmas around New Years. Traditions are like trees, unique and with personality.
My family growing up had a while Christmas tree. I actually thought this was perfectly normal until I went to school and realized nobody had white trees. They have actually come in style over the last few years, so my mom finally got to get a “new” white tree. The tree always had red lights and red beads and an angel with a reddish dress on top. But that is where the theme ended. Our ornaments were an interesting assortment. My mom really liked acorns and birds on her tree. Some of her birds were almost as old as her and passed down from her mom, as were a few glass bulbs we had (that are still becoming fewer and fewer each year). A few birds had only one eye, or a bald patch where the feathers fell off. We still put them up. We have as assortment of decorations we thought cute over the year. Post-office memerobilia, Christmas gifts and ALL of the ornaments I made as a child in school. When I got into music in Middle School, we began acquiring instrument ornaments. I also loved cows, so we have a few cow ornaments. My family’s tree was notably red, but with a rainbow and assortment of ornaments. That is what I see as my perfect tree.
Patrick’s family is a real tree family. They also have a fairly epic variety of ornaments. His mom is trying to make it more themed. It is nice and less varied, but still lovely and traditional looking. Speaking of traditional, he used to use tinsel though that has since ceased. I am grateful… Tinsel is by far my least favorite thing on earth. My grandmother always had tinsel. A lot of it. Its messy. When I was a small child, I was laying under her tree and inhaled tinsel and choked. She got mad. I was unimpressed. Thus, I still hate tinsel.
My friend V has the most festive family I know. They have multiple trees. The record was about 4 and its not like their house is huge. They have one tree that has all of the tacky (or at least the majority). The highlight of this includes mismatched lights consisting of flashing icicles and Sesame Street lights along the bottom! Their ornaments include childhood concoctions, some vaguely inappropriate items (favorite of which has mistletoe and when you push a button a flag that says kiss me pops up) and then there is the best ornament of all… We have a Christmas dinner party at their place every year and they thought it would be fun to put our friend L on the tree. They printed a terrible picture of her and put it in a place of honor on the tree. She took awhile to notice and got mad. It reappeared the next year, and the next year…. It wouldn’t be Christmas without L on the tree! Their other trees are fairly standard with multicolored lights and some with mini decorations.
My grandparents have a small white ceramic tree with blue bird lights (it is actually intended to be a winter decoration). They stopped having a normal tree because my grandmother would get annoyed by it. However, she has since forgotten it bothers her, so I wouldn’t be shocked if they had a little green one this year. My parents love the ceramic tree. They want it once the grandparents die.
Others I know have perfectly themed trees. Patrick’s aunt has a tree that is angel themed. Literally, the entire tree is covered in large angel dolls. It is almost eerie, yet beautiful. I have a friend here who has a tree decorated entirely in purple – lights, balls, ribbon. At home, there is a festival of trees to raise money for charities and many of the trees decorated and auctioned are themed in things you wouldn’t think of – pop cans, bicycles, houses, bones… you name it, someone has probably themed it.
We just decorated our tree today (early to me, but I leave next week to go on a rotation at our other home). It is only a tiny little Charlie Brown tree. Patrick bought it last year. It has a mix of Sesame Street ornaments he bought last year, giant microbes (a Christmas gift from the lovely M&H, but school friends) and some bulbs Patrick got from the gift exchange. We don’t have a star or angel, but E. coli is on top of our tree. It is festively tacky… Just the way we like it!
In the future, I don’t really know what kind of tree we will have. Wherever we go next, we want a bigger one. I want a white one. Because despite me now knowing social norms, white trees are more like Christmas. Patrick wants a real one because real ones are more like Christmas to him. We joke we will have both. His possibly with some tinsel. Mine with some microbes. It should prove to be interesting.