With Thanksgiving behind us now, it’s time to prepare for the Christmas season. A lot has changed in my life over the past few years, and my idea of Christmas is changing, too.
Our house has a living room with a big picture window that faces our country road, and for several years we set up an artificial tree right there so people could see the pretty colored lights from the road as they drove by. We piled the kids’ gifts under the tree, which was covered with the kinds of ornaments that only schoolkids can make: Photo Day portraits framed in canning-jar lids or wreaths made from puzzle pieces painted green; craft-stick reindeer; pompom snowmen.
Last year, when it was only up to me and how I wanted it to be, I bought a real tree and let my daughter decorate it with all the trimmings she liked, even the ones that brought me particular pain and heartache. I wasn’t feeling much of the “Christmas spirit” then, so it was a relief to see that she had it in abundance.
Since last year, however, I’ve repurposed the living room, and there isn’t room for a tree in the most obvious place in the house. None of the other rooms made sense to host a tree. The kids and I talked about it, and we (probably mostly me, but they were game) decided to get a real tree again, but put it up outside, on the deck. We don’t have a way to safely run electricity to it to light it up, so we’ll be making bird-edible garlands from Cheerios, popcorn, cranberries, and raisins, and hanging new feeders and birdseed ornaments.
Said my dear daughter: “So, Mom…. basically, we’re making a giant bird feeder?”
Sort of, although I hope it will also be a big playground for the birds that already hang around to see what kind of suet cake I might put out next. We have Hairy Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, Chickadees, Purple Finches, House Sparrows, Goldfinches, and (sigh) starlings and crows. The birds should enjoy the tree, and I also bought some pine garland to help dress up the porch and meet our own human aesthetic needs.
There ought to be something in this setup for everybody. We’ll find out soon. But we’ll have a real tree, a pretty thing, a mixture of holiday tradition and gentle change, and the chance to cut down our own tree (Middle Son is all for any enterprise that might let him wield an axe). Most of the kids won’t be here at Christmas to open gifts — we did some early exchanges right after Thanksgiving — so there’s really no need to take up half a room with a big pile of gift-wrapped temptation. But maybe we’ll start to develop other ways to celebrate the holiday, ways that over the years will turn into our own traditions.
As I wrote this post, I recalled my favorite Christmas-tree pictures taken over the years, and realized that right now I have access to almost none of them. But as I do find them, I’ll come back to this post and insert my own family photos from over the years. And I’ll take some pictures this year, too.