My heart always skipped a beat when Mom got the plastic tub with the holiday decorations out, especially when it was almost Christmas. There seemed to be an endless supply, and when it was Easter, or Saint Patrick’s Day, or Halloween, or Christmas, or Valentine’s Day, she’d pull out the knickknacks and wall decorations and put them around the living room and front window.
But for Christmas, Dad got involved when it came to hanging the lights. (Think the movie The Christmas Story.) The classic bulbs had to be lined up just so, to appease Dad’s (and my) preference for order. Our black wrought-iron railing would soon be brightly lit with Christmas colors and the use of many pieces of plastic tie-wrap kept the decorations intact. Of course, there’d inevitably be a light bulb needing replacement and no spare bulbs on hand. The entire light-hanging operation would be shut down until Dad returned from the hardware store.
I remember a couple things from my German grandmother’s Christmas decorations. A statue of what I thought was supposed to be “Santa” was actually the figure of St. Nicklaus, drab and slumped over, carrying a brown bag, looking more like a homeless man than Santa Claus. And who else remembers single strands of tinsel? Grandmom draped hundreds of silvery slivers, one at a time, onto her three foot tabletop tree. It weighed the tree into kneeling submission. It was dreary yet beautiful.
On the other hand, my Italian grandmother preferred decorative bling for her holiday display. The all-white Christmas tree in her bay window with its filtered spotlight mesmerized me with its changing colors, red then blue then green then gold then red again.
This year, our family decided to put only red and white lights on our little artificial green tree. More importantly, I prefer to remember the meaning of the light. A single beam from the North Star pointing to the true light in our world in the form of baby Jesus. Hope and joy personified. How beautiful.
How do you like to light your Christmas tree?