10 December 2012

Decking the halls

This week I hope to purchase a Christmas tree. With luck it will be upright, lighted and strewn with treasured decorations and beloved family baubles by Sunday evening. 

The bears in the little den upstairs will be journeying downstairs to sit by the tree in their rocking chair while the tiger next to the hearth will be getting his annual crown of Holly. And a cradle full of dolls will be set up in the parlor.   (There has been much excitement about these developments, if one is to believe even half the gossip one hears upstairs in the night....)

Christmas music boxes will get a random twist each time I brush past, and carols from Kings College Cambridge will be wafting throughout the cottage, in counterpoint with Bing Crosby, Andy Williams and Perry Como. 

I've already watched a few of my favorite Christmas films:  A Christmas Carol (in one of its numerous iterations), Miracle on 34th Street, Christmas with the Kranks, and It's a Wonderful Life. And there will no doubt be many more to come over the next few weeks, ranging from the sublime (versions of A Christmas Carol featuring Patric Stewart, George C. Scott, Alistair Sim, and the Muppets) to the ridiculous (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation), not to mention the beloved cartoons featuring Frosty, Rudoph, the Grinch, and Charlie Brown.

My favorite and well-worn Christmas books are stacked on the old leather suitcase in the parlor: The Night Before Christmas, several editions of A Christmas Carol, various issues of Christmas Ideals, and a favorite copy of A Child's Christmas in Wales with beautiful woodcut illustrations.

My supply of powdered cocoa has been shored up, in anticipation of nightly cups by the fire. Holly, ivy, and spruce greens will be clipped and brought indoors to be placed in pitchers and vases here and there. The guest room will be the nerve center ("Command Central") of my Christmas Present gathering, while the dining room table will routinely be cleared for wrapping and packaging.

The pecans, almonds, white and dark chocolate, brandies and liqueurs, brown sugar, molasses, golden syrup, currants, and sultanas have been purchased little by little over the past month or so, in anticipation of the cookies, fudge, truffles, pralines, and steamed puddings I'll be baking.  (I have walnuts on lay-a-way, and should be able to release them into my custody pending a 2nd mortgage being approved.  Apparently they are dipped in gold after being harvested by elves since there can be no other possible reason for their exorbitant price.)

The cards will be brought down from the attic soon and I will pick a quiet Sunday afternoon to sit and go through them, choosing just the right one for each person before writing messages of peace and harmony and good wishes to loved ones.

It's not easy to hold fast to the magic of Christmas in small ways, while all around you it seems frenetic commercialism scrawls its Surrender Dorothy warnings overhead. But it's important to make the time to wander through the neighborhood on foot at night to gaze at all the light displays, or to enjoy quiet evenings by the fire with hot cider, or to feel the warm wool take shape in your hands as another sock or hat materializes and goes into the present box. 

One Christmas was so much like another...  that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six. 

Perhaps I'm inordinately naive, but I genuinely believe we have as much time as we need or wish for, and this is never more true than at Christmas.  It all comes down to refining our choices and selecting those that are important to us and make us truly happy. For me the list is a long but fairly simple one: holly, cocoa, re-reading favorite Christmas stories, baking, knitting, candlight, Carols, and seeing my Christmas tree glimmer in a darkened parlor.  If I don't make time for this then I've truly missed the point.

A Child's Christmas in Wales. (Wood engraving by F. Eichenberg)

1 comment:

  1. My goodness you have it all down! I'm glad you got an early start. I'm sort of going through the motions a bit at this stage. Family starts to arrive on Thursday and will change the energy a bit. (For the better.) So many little pleasures to enjoy. Nice picturing you with your books and bear friends!