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O Tannenbaum!

 It's up! Yaaaayyyy!!

It always takes 2 evenings to put up our tree - the first to put on the lights, the second to hang the ornaments.  My husband and I have been having a running (friendly) argument for the last 15 years concerning the proper way to decorate a tree.  He insists that I am obsessive (who, moi?) because I think the lights should not just be wound around the *outside*, but should follow the branch from tip to trunk so that there's light inside and out.  That means it takes a long time for me to put them on, and we'd probably win the Reddy Kilowatt Award for number of lights packed into a tree (there are about 1000 on this 8 foot frasier fir), but I wouldn't have it any other way.  But then, he likes the big bulbs, and tinsel, which makes his taste in tree ornamentation questionable anyway. ::g::  I'm a purist, and prefer no tinsel or garland to obscure the ornaments.  The tree was too tall this year for our German blown-glass topper, so I made a bow for the top, the first time we've ever done that.

Every one of the ornaments on this tree has some special significance.  Perhaps bought on one of our trips (we always come home with an ornament as one of travel souvenirs), or given to us by someone we love, or made by our girl.  We listen and sing along to carols, eat cookies and drink hot cocoa while we decorate, and it usually takes us two to three hours to hang them all.  After we're done, we turn off all the room lights and just sit on the sofa with our arms around each other and look at our lovely tree for awhile.  Shamefully soppy, I know, but we can't help ourselves.  :-)

So, enquiring minds want to know, flisties - what are your traditions?  Real tree or artificial?  Large bulb lights, or small?  Colored or white lights?  What goes on the top of your tree? Which ornament do you look forward most to hanging on your tree?  Garland, tinsel or nothing?
How long do you leave your tree up?  Do tell!  ::g::



( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 21st, 2010 09:01 am (UTC)
Beautiful tree!

In the long ago, in the age of screw-in bulbs where if one burned out the whole string went dark, one tradition was finding the dead one. Many scorched fingers resulted. We had the big bulbs, not much choice then, and some that looked like candles that had liquid in them that bubbled when it got hot. The tinsel was lead strips, I used to throw it on in wads because I couldn't reach. Try that with the stuff you get today. Between the bubble lights and the tinsel the things were outright toxic, but we didn't care.

One Christmas in Mass a little deer mouse took up residence in the tree, no lights, no electricity save for a couple hours every other night, he was really cute, and the cat actually spared him. That cat killed muskrats if they got in the garden, so Mickey was a charmed individual.

We used to have real trees, and hung 'cat ornaments' on the lower branches for them to monkey with. Over the years we switched to fake ones, and now we've a little table-top thing, fiber optic lights so the tips of the needles glow, tacky as heck, frankly, but it's sincere.

My Aunt sent us every year until she died a hand-quilled or tatted snowflake, and one year the little tree had nothing but those on it. She also sent us a walnut with a face painted on it. It has a little stocking cap, a scarf, and little legs and arms and feet. And skis and ski poles. It is my favorite ornament ever.

I'll stop now. There have been many Christmases, many trees, each has its own story.

You are correct about the lights though.
Dec. 22nd, 2010 04:48 pm (UTC)
My husband, who is nearly a decade older than me, remembers the boiling candle bulbs well. And I had *no* idea that the tinsel was lead . . . no wonder you don't see it in the stores anymore! (I told Mr. L that it was because everyone had suddenly acquired good taste ::g::) And I do remember being corrected for throwing it by the handful onto our tree. My mother likes it too, but it had to be put on sparingly, and hung strand by strand. No wonder I grew to despise it. :-P

I *love* the story of Mickey!! And the handmade lace snowflakes are so special (that must have been a lovely tree), as is the walnut (I'd love to see a picture if you still have it). It's the things made by those we love that make this season what it is, in my opinion.
Dec. 21st, 2010 02:18 pm (UTC)
Absolutely lovely, and so are your traditions. I'm with you on the lights (apologies to Mr. L). My sister is an artist with tree lights, and she insists that your way is the only way: hundreds of lights wound deep within the tree as well as on the outer branches.

I agree that the results are superb, but I haven't the patience for it, myself. I'm deeply lazy, I'm afraid. So my tree is artificial, a table-top model with built-in white lights. I rarely put it up, since usually I go to NYC to be with my partner and the Child for Christmas, and before I was with her (i.e., before 2000), I'd go to my mother's or to my previous parter's parents. (As an academic, I always have longer Christmas breaks than other folks, so traveling is easier for me. And I never bothered putting up my own tree, since I'd have had to take it down before Christmas [I hate coming home after the holidays to find Christmas decorations still sitting around.])

At my mother's house, we had the beautifully-lit tree, courtesy of my sister. My partner prefers full-sized live trees with purple and silver ornaments and whatever things the Child has made. The top ornament is always a Troll doll with a home-made aluminum-foil star behind it.

But this year, my little tree is up, since Partner and Child are coming to me, weather permitting. I don't do tinsel (too messy; did I mention that laziness thing?) But I do hang these glow-in-the-dark icicles that we had when I was a kid. And all the ornaments have personal meaning. I'll do a picspam in the next day or two.

I don't do much in the way of other decorations (yeah, lazy). I've draped some red lights over my antique desk and wrapped some greenery and red-and-white lights around the hall tree. That's it.

When I was a kid, our tree sounds very much like Lash's -- those big, old-fashioned lights with a few bubble-lights thrown in and wads of tinsel that we kids stood back and flung at the tree. (My mother thought the tinsel draped better that way than if you deliberately laid it on. "Looks more natural," she'd say, as if there was anything natural about a tree in the living room covered with lights and synthetic silver strands. But anyway. It was fun.)

When I was a kid, we always went to my grandmother's on Christmas Eve. There were a lot of us, and all the kids (at least eight of us [my family's four and my uncle's four], sometimes 14 if all the other cousins were in) would wait in the basement until Santa came. (He was actually my grandma's neighbor in a red suit, but we didn't know that then). No kid was allowed upstairs until Grandma rang this old-fashioned bell; it was one of the sweetest childhood sounds I knew.

When that bell sounded, we'd all thunder up the stairs where our dads were stationed with those old home-movie cameras that had bright lights. We have innumerable movies of us charging through the dining room, past the cakes and cookies that normally would have absorbed all our attention. (Sometimes we'd snatch goodies as we ran past. We have one unforgettable movie of my cousin putting a cookie in his mouth, changing his mind, and spitting it into a bowl of oranges. He got in trouble later.) Santa would hand out presents, we'd get tons of things from all the relatives, and then we'd go downstairs again with the loot to play. Total paradise.

The family has kept up the Christmas-Eve Santa tradition for the kiddies, though my cousins and brothers have taken over for the long-departed neighbor. My partner's son got to be part of it, too, when he came along. One year he said he hoped we didn't think he was so silly as to believe that Santa made all the presents himself with elves at the North Pole. I assumed he'd reached the point of no longer believing in Santa, but I wasn't sure, so I said carefully, "where do you think the presents come from, then?" And he said, in a "duh!" tone of voice, "Santa buys them with credit cards."

No matter where I am or what the tree is like, I have to have some time on Christmas Eve when I'm completely alone, and I sit in the living room with only the tree lit, and look at it and let the calm seep in.

Dec. 21st, 2010 03:31 pm (UTC)
My brother was the light artist back then. He wrapped the cord around the branches so that you really couldn't see wire at all.
I got the joy of removing them after the tree was all dried out and prickly as the dickens. It took a couple hours and my hands got all scratched up. I think that's why he did it, frankly...
Dec. 23rd, 2010 01:31 am (UTC)
And no doubt there were still needles in the carpet months later. . .
Dec. 22nd, 2010 05:15 pm (UTC)
This was a wonderful reply - how generous you are to share all these lovely memories! I absolutely *adore* the troll star . . . that's just terrific!! And I bet your son, since he's so artistic, has made some really special things for your tree. Miss M has made a bunch, too, but my favorites remain the colored pasta stringed 'wreaths' and the little green felt tree whose 'ornaments' she made by dipping her fingers into glitter paint and pressing them on the felt, all made when she was a toddler.

Your mother and mine had very different ideas about the tinsel . . . I got reprimanded if I flung it on. I don't know if you've ever read the picture book called Aunty Claus, but there's a line from that story ("You must drape the tinsel, darling - never throw it on.") that makes me think of her every time we read it aloud. ::g::

And your Christmas Eves at your grandmother's - I can feel how close and warm you hold those memories from the way you write of them, and it made me feel warm inside, too. :-) What a lovely thing to have preserved the tradition! LOL about the credit cards - too cute! Our children can really make acute the times we're living in, can't they? When we went to pick our tree at the tree farm we go to every year, we wandered around for awhile before I heard her calling out to us. She'd found a lovely tree (the one we eventually bought), and before moving off down the row said, "I think this one's really good; we should bookmark it." Mr. L and I stood there for a moment, processing what she'd just said, then burst into laughter. She looked at us like we'd lost our minds, then shrugged and moved on. We're still chuckling, and I think that's going in the 'Christmas Memories for out grandchildren' file. ::g::

No matter where I am or what the tree is like, I have to have some time on Christmas Eve when I'm completely alone, and I sit in the living room with only the tree lit, and look at it and let the calm seep in.

I do this early Christmas morning, before everyone wakes up. I make myself a cup of tea, sit down with a cat or two in my lap, take in the quiet and the beauty and just be. It's a gift I give myself every Christmas, and one I'm delighted that I share with you. ::hugs::
Dec. 23rd, 2010 01:29 am (UTC)
*hugs back* I'll lift my glass in a toast to you when I'm having my solitary tree moments.

Love the story about "bookmarking." It reminds me of the year the Child was about five and got money from his grandfather for Christmas. I overheard him explaing the gift to a small friend: "It's like a gift card," he said. "But you can use it anywhere."
Dec. 21st, 2010 03:26 pm (UTC)
Your tree looks absolutely stunning!

Our tree is a real one, about as tall as I am.

We've little fairy lights in the tree, white ones, just around the branches. I've never even seen a tree with lights all the way in, such as you and kellychambliss describe.

On the top, we have a German glass element, too. They're the most common variety here, stars or bows are rarely seen.

I've a few garlands, no tinsel. There are several things I look forward to hanging in the tree, and those are the decorations that do have a personal meaning.

When my partner and I spent our first 'couple' Christmas, we've decided to get ornaments together. So the bulk of the decorations was bought then, a sort of Gryffindor red - but over the years I've added some touches of gold. And there's a few baubles we've bought on holidays. A tartan ball in Scotland. A little William Shakespeare doll in Stratford. A red bird in Heidelberg.

A particular favourite is one of two little angels that came from my parents' house. They're the only ones I've kept when I cleaned out (my mother now lives in a sheltered care home).

The one angel is wonderful, all white and gold. And totally uncooperative: always turns in such a way that she faces away from the room. This year I've taken a firm stand. She now looks into the room, immovably fixed between a few branches. Try Christmas with needles in your behind, little madam, and we'll see whether you've learned sense next year.

The other one is a coloured angel. At my parents' house, this was blasphemy. Baubles must all be silver. Candles must be real. Not negotiable. But I loved the coloured one, so she was put at the back, to save my father's feelings. Then, one year, one of her wings got scorched (real candles). My father joyfully suggested that was it. But I was all upset, crying that we should pity the little angel, not her fault her wing was burned ...

Well, Christmas is hardly the time to tell your little daughter that yes, the handicapped one can and will be chucked in the dustbin. So she stayed. Still does. Still at the back of the tree, but I make sure she has a lovely view.

We usually keep the tree up till New Year's Day at least, for we have friends coming over on New Year's Eve, and I like to have the decorations in place. But I always clear up before January 6th. Brings bad luck, to have your decorations on the Feast of the Three Kings.

One of my favourite moments is when I settle in front of our tree, spiced wine or port to hand, and reread A Christmas Carol.
Dec. 21st, 2010 03:34 pm (UTC)
We would always read the Christmas story from the King James bible on Christmas eve, "And there were, in the same country..."

I read it from the time I was six until I left my parents' house. I'd kind of forgotten about that 'till just now.
Dec. 22nd, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC)
Oh, I *love* your angel story!! How wonderful that you still have them! I have an uncooperative fairy who must be related to your gold and white angel, so I fool her by finding a branch with a large space and hang her underneath, facing the trunk. Inevitably, she ends up twisting so that she's facing out. Hee!

I have many ornaments from my travels, too - the fairy's from Ireland, as is a Waterford bell; Tartan rosettes decorated with our clan badges from Scotland and a cockle shell picked up from the beach near the place on Lewis where my one of my great-grandmothers was born; Le Tour Eiffel from the obvious place; a cobalt glass ball from the Blaafarveværket in Norway; a tiny Royal Copenhagen plate from Denmark; a Delft windmill from Holland (forgive me, I know it's a cliché, but I love it anyway :-) ); a carved wooden cupid from the Schwarzwald and a glass pickle from Heidelberg; a gondola from Venice and a tiny basket-wrapped Chianti bottle from Tuscany and a small framed picture of the house in Grosseto where my husband's grandparents lived before they emigrated to the US; plus ornaments from all of our travels in America. One of the reasons it takes so long to decorate the tree is the reminiscing that happens as each treasure is unwrapped, and the perfect place on the tree sought!

I've always wondered how one managed a tree with real candles - scary but beautiful. They must be very long lasting candles, and I can imagine all kinds of fun rituals involved in the lighting and snuffing. :-)

Our tree comes down the weekend following New Year's Day, no matter what day that is. RL won't allow enough time otherwise.

One of my favourite moments is when I settle in front of our tree, spiced wine or port to hand, and reread A Christmas Carol. - I'd love to hear you read it someday! We do our Dickens in bed, MIss M sandwiched between the two of us, while Mr. L reads.
Dec. 23rd, 2010 01:38 am (UTC)
Try Christmas with needles in your behind, little madam, and we'll see whether you've learned sense next year.

Hahaha! Keep those angels in their place, that's what I say.

I love your ornament traditions (and the spiced wine/Dickens, of course).
Dec. 21st, 2010 03:33 pm (UTC)
Lovely tree!

We have a real tree - he likes spiky, I like less pspiky - we alternate. He doesn't like tinsel; I grew up with it - we compromise with bead chains. New lights last year - tiny LED ones that twinkle - we both like them. Ornaments - all mean something - a place, a person, an event, a time in our lives. Very precious.
Dec. 21st, 2010 03:34 pm (UTC)
Oh, and after our wire star broke, we got a white peacock for the top of our tree!
Dec. 22nd, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
I'm sure Lucius would approve! :-D I have Hedwig on my tree, given to me a few Christmases ago by my youngest niece.
Dec. 22nd, 2010 09:10 pm (UTC)
Marriage is all about compromise - except when it comes to Christmas trees. XD Your ornament collection sounds like ours - full of beautiful memories. Your new lights sound lovely . . . considering the large carbon footprint of my gazillion lights, I should probably replace them all with LEDs.
Dec. 25th, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC)
That is an absolutely gorgeous tree, both beautiful and warm, although I doubt I'd have the patience to string the lights with the care you describe. But I love Christmas trees and multi-colored lights and ornaments and the smell of pine, music (carefully selected) and eggnog and mulled wine and holiday paper and glittering ribbons, the weary, nostalgic smiles on the faces of adults and the gleeful wonder and rapacity of small children.

Tinsel was banished the year after one not-very-bright cat went wild over the shimmery strings and ate a bunch, which meant we had to extract it from his other end. Ho ho ho.
Dec. 26th, 2010 01:53 am (UTC)
Tinsel was banished the year after one not-very-bright cat went wild over the shimmery strings and ate a bunch, which meant we had to extract it from his other end. Ho ho ho.

Oh. My. We have a tinselavore, too, though his favored stuff is narrow curling ribbon and metallic bag stuffings. Lucky for us, he just barfs it up!

So, what music do you favor, my dear? I'm all over the map, from The 12 Pains of Christmas and Who Spiked the Eggnog to Vivaldi and Anonymous 4 and everything in between (though I tend to skip the teen pop stuff ::g::). It depends on what mood I'm in.
Dec. 27th, 2010 01:34 am (UTC)
The scary thing about tinsel is that it can get tangled in the intestines, which then requires surgical intervention. It wasn't so much distaste as alarm that enforced the ban.

As far as Yule music goes, I tend to be pretty traditional, mostly sacred music with occasional forays into folkish carols. Here's a quick skim down the highlights of my Christmas folder:

Boston Camerata, Renaissance Christmas - also, Sing We Noel
Benjamin Britten, performed by The Sixteen ("Ceremony of Carols" is a must)
Bruce Cockburn
Barry & Beth Hall, A Feast of Songs
Ensemble Galilei, A Winter's Night
Joan Baez, Noel
Kate Rusby, Sweet Bells
Kerfuffle, Lighten the Dark
Kitka, Wintersongs
Loreena McKennitt
Make We Joy, carols of Holst and Walton
Mediaeval Babes, Mistletoe & Wine
Odetta, Spirituals
O Magnum Misterium, a collection of 20th-century Anglican carols
O Magnum Mysterium, a two-CD collection of Renaissance sacred music, which contains some of the performances I cherish most (and which is out of print, so I guard it jealously)
Waterson: Carthy, Holy Heathens and the Old Green Man

I also have a soft spot for Nat King Cole ("The Christmas Song" is a permanent part of my childhood memories) and one of Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas albums, and I like scattered instances of some of the more sardonic rock interpretations.

Do you have any recordings you particularly love and want to rec? I'm always open to suggestion.

I love the holidays, but heavens. So much to read and not enough time in which to read it!

(Also, my dear, thank you so much for my virtual gift! It surprised me and filled me with glee. *hug of delight*)
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )