Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Time to Buy the Tree

Tonight we turned on the TV just in time to see the end of the tree-lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center in New York.  It reminded me of the last time my late husband and I stood for hours in a chill wind to watch the tree-lighting in person.  When we lived in New York, we spent a lot of time outside in lousy weather around the holidays.  The St. Patrick's Day parade, the Halloween parade in the Village, the balloon inflation the night before Thanksgiving, the Thanksgiving Day Parade itself, the tree-lighting, and New Year's Eve all held the threat of frostbitten ears and feet, but we loved them anyway, and not just because they gave us an excuse for Irish coffee afterward.

Barry and I don't go to many public celebrations in Arizona because he gets claustrophobic in crowds, but we have a variety of more private holiday rituals.  This week we kicked off the Christmas season by buying a jug of eggnog and putting our lighted wooden snowman and Christmas tree in the front yard.  We still have to set up the winter village on the sideboard, put out the collection of stuffed reindeer, hang our stockings from the office bookshelves, and buy and decorate a Noble pine.  Other holidays have their own special foods and decorations.  During the months without obvious holidays, we find something else to celebrate.  A couple of years ago we threw a big duck-themed party in June to celebrate Donald Duck's birthday.

I've read that depression and suicide are rampant during holidays, but I've never really understood that.  During the first few years I lived alone in New York, far from my family, I still put up the tree and set out the Easter basket, and if no one invited me to share a holiday meal, I invited others to dine with me.  Rituals like these help give shape and meaning to the year.  Even when things are going badly, I feel better just unpacking the Christmas tree ornament my third grade Sunday School teacher gave me or the Valentine cookie cutters from Barry's older daughter. Barry feels the same way about the ceramic houses and miniature trees in the holiday village.

I'd like to wrap this up with some deeply profound observation about the meaning of holidays, but the right words escape me.  The closest I can come is the motto on one of our favorite banners:  "Life is too short to not celebrate birthdays."  Or Halloween, or the Fourth of July, or Donald Duck.  Pick your holiday, and party hearty!

"I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month." ~Harlan Miller 

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