Bryan and Mandy insist that we have a real Christmas tree, and while I grouse and complain about it, I really don’t mind. I like supporting our tree farming people, and I like the way a real tree looks and smells in the house. Someone meets us at the truck with a saw when we first pull in, and we spend some time wandering around with it, looking for the perfect tree.
My role, once at the farm, is to prevent Bryan and Mandy from choosing a stupid Christmas tree. They tend to be distracted by such trivial things as “it’s the right height” and “it’s pretty.” My job is to keep them from picking a tree that has giant holes in the cone, or a tree with a badly curved trunk. This year I had to discourage them from choosing a tree that was obviously deceased, though I really think they were kidding when they started cutting this one. They choose the tree; I have veto power. This means that the whole process of tree – shopping usually takes a couple of hours.
The world of our Christmas has been built around traditions we’ve chosen intentionally. Since Mandy and I didn’t bring in family traditions of our own, we’ve adopted some of Bryan’s, and we’ve established some new ones. This has let us choose things that matter to us, rather than just spending time on stuff that doesn’t have any meaning. We love our tree, and we like to decorate the living room, but we don’t care anything about outside lights, so we don’t put them up. We like presents, but we don’t focus on them. We like Christmas music, but not the Jesus-y kind. We don’t believe in Santa, and never have – but somehow, the Festivus Fairy always puts new pajamas for Mandy under the tree. We don’t spend time with our extended families – Bryan’s is far away, and I really don’t have any – but we make a special effort to make plans with other people we care about.
We always set aside most of the weekend after Thanksgiving for the project of Christmas. The tree itself takes forever to set up, partly because we have a lot of stuff to put on it, and partly because a lot of horsing around is involved. I am in charge of getting things out, but I am not allowed to put anything on the tree; Bryan and Mandy insist on doing that themselves. (If they do it wrong I sneak around later and fix it.)
Christmas. Garrison Keillor said that “the lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.” And we do. And I like that, a lot.