The little tree sits neatly on our coffee table. Not a big tree. No lights on it, there not being any convenient electrical outlet nearby. Yet it is satisfying. Pretty, festive, neat. Cheerful without taking over the house.
I remember the big trees of years past. Hulking great trees covered with easily shattered glass ornaments. Shivering with lights and tinsel. I recall all the the years of not being able to decorate the bottom of the tree because cats found the shiny, dangling glass balls irresistible. The dogs found tree an overwhelming temptation too, especially the boys. No amount of heart-to-heart conversations about Christmas tree etiquette with them ever convinced a dog to not imbue the tree with his own personal essence.
People always called Christmas pines real trees, as if there was something intrinsically superior to cutting down a living tree, hauling it indoors, then decorating it. Only to watch it slowly die. Then dragging it outside to be collected as trash, or give it a Viking funeral in a bonfire.
I’ve always hated taking the tree down. It wasn’t unusual for me to leave it up until Valentine’s Day or later. I hated watching it die and refused to admit it was. Like the cut flowers I never throw away until they are completely crisp and brown.
This little tree is an elegant fake. It will never die because it has never lived. It can return every Christmas and will never become trash on the curb. I prefer it this way.
The surprise is how much we enjoy our small, quiet Christmas. It doesn’t feel like deprivation. We can watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” again. Maybe add “White Christmas” as a bonus. Cuddle the dogs.
No more maxed out credit cards or guilt over not buying the right gift … or spending weeks decorating, wrapping, and preparing. And ending up exhausted, with an empty bank account and a vague feeling of disappointment. This year, my one big blowout gift is for us: I’m getting a team in to clean the house. I’m neat, so it’s not a disaster area. I do the best I can, but cleaning this place thoroughly is beyond me these days. So happy Christmas to me! We shall go into the New Year clean.
Christmas day will be a dinner with friends. He’s not feeling too well, so we’re going there. I understand. These days, our health and the health of friends is not a given. We keep fingers crossed that it’s going to work out and everyone will be fine — and the weather will coöperate.
Maybe this was the way it was supposed to be. Warm, friendly, quiet. Low key — with not a single shred of disappointment. Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah. And a joyous anything else you celebrate. Whether you are having a crowd or just yourself, may it be a time of comfort and joy.