Friday, December 07, 2018

Day 7. Let's Not Start Christmas Too Early

photo: mariana b |

When Rick and I got married, twenty years ago now, I was a little surprised to discover that we each had different feelings and ideas about Christmas. It never became an issue or anything, but in my desire to know and appreciate the man I married, we eventually chatted about what Christmas meant to each of us and specifically, the topic of today's post, our own ideas about when the Christmas season should begin in our house.  

I have always been an over-the-top Christmas enthusiast. Long before I met Rick, my then housemate and best friend Jean and I loved Christmas. I mean . . . We. Seriously. Loved. The. Season. The first snowflake that sometimes fell as early as September was a very good reason to pull out the Christmas music. It wouldn't be long before we'd be snooping the stores for decorations, pretty gift wrap, and gorgeous new Hallmark boxed greeting cards (for I loved sending out Christmas cards). We'd spend hours dreaming about handmade gifts and how we would decorate, as well as digging out all the recipe books for holiday baking and menu planning. December 1st usually found us in a flurry as we considered that the official start of Christmas. We decorated our house. The tree was put up, to the delight of all the kitties. Tiny white lights were nestled in greenery atop the kitchen cabinets. Wreaths and candles were set out. Not only was our home aglow, but we'd string white lights on the huge maple tree in the backyard, sending out the Christmas cheer to all our neighbours.

So when Rick and I got married, I brought all that tradition and passion with me. It turned everything upside down for him. While I loved all things Christmas and cherished its many traditions, he was nowhere as enthusiastic about all the hoopla. He would hang lights up on his house outside, but he didn't put up a tree. And, by the time I met him, he didn't always travel to visit far away family, but spent Christmas Day with good friends nearby. So his celebrating was simple.

When I'd start hauling out the decorations at the beginning of December and putting on the Christmas music, Rick would tease me that he'd have to call the "Christmas police" because it was way too early for decorations and Christmas music to be playing all day. I thought he was just goofing off, but, then I saw that he was serious, not about the Christmas police, but that he truly didn't appreciate Christmas music and decorating that early.


So, we sat down and talked about it, over cups of tea probably, and he told me why he didn't like starting Christmas so early. As a student going to university, he worked part-time in the sporting goods section of the local Woolco. The tinny canned Christmas tapes began playing right after Halloween. And, listening to it shift after shift after shift for almost three months, it was enough to put him off Jingle Bells for life, with the whole idea of celebrating Christmas not far behind.

Except he liked Christmas. He liked his childhood Christmases. But now, he was tired of Christmas by Christmas Day. The holiday felt tattered, broken, and worn out, much like those music cassettes that had been played over and over. I saw the juxtaposition clearly. For me, I truly loved and appreciated the build up to Christmas. I think people who have happy childhood memories of nice holidays and good feelings often feel excited about hearing the early notes to familiar tunes. But, for Rick, who had had to listen to Christmas tapes repetitiously for weeks on end, it really triggered old, uncomfortable stress responses when I started playing music too soon. Any special feelings he once had had worn thin and empty.

I understood that. Totally.

So I said as we finished our tea, well, let's start Christmas later this year. Definitely not before December but keeping the decorating and music nearer to the actual day. I was happy enough to share this new experience of waiting, because in truth it was an old one for me. When we were kids, Mom didn't decorate our home until just days before Christmas either, and most of our celebrating was kept to those few days right around the 25th and between Christmas and New Year's. It felt like slipping on comfortable, old slippers.

That year, I refrained from shopping (yes, even shopping) and baking until later in the month. I did read my collection of December Victoria magazines and dream about Christmas, but there were no actual activities. I don't remember what I did about cards, if I worked on those early or not, but I saw a note in my archives that we didn't play any Christmas music until December 11th that year. 

Anticipation grew as we waited and it also revealed something else that was interesting. It was like the essence of the holiday had distilled into something more potent. We were not at all jaded by the frenzy, but there was that gradual build up of something now eagerly looked forward to. For both of us. It felt more akin to that feeling I used have as a child.

That year, I read Jan Karon's novel Shepherds Abiding and was delighted to learn that Father Timothy had recognized something similar. In the story, he had just finished listening to the church choir singing the beautiful old carols,  and he thought to himself...

"Call him a stick-in-the-mud, a dinosaur, a fusty throwback, but indeed, jumping into the fray the day after Halloween was akin to hitting, and holding, high C for a couple of months, while a bit of patience saved Christmas for Christmas morning and kept the holy days fresh and new."

Starting Christmas later that year made it fresh for us, and it renewed my acquaintance with an old childhood tradition. Since then, nine years later, we have tried not to start Christmas too early. I do dream about it in my own space ...  I still love, love Christmas and all it means to me. But I have come to appreciate that keeping Christmas for Christmas Day has its place too.

I have to tell you something cute .... maybe three or four years ago, when I wasn't feeling well, I almost thought about not putting up a tree. We weren't having family Christmas at our house, and I would have been quite happy with just the twinkle lights everywhere. So, surprised was I when Rick asked one day, when are we putting up the tree. And I realized that we'd both changed. I was okay about not spreading the Christmas decorating out for weeks, and he was realizing that early Christmas decorating doesn't have to jade the season but can be part of building anticipation.

* * * 

This year, 2018, we've got twinkle lights and greenery up on the mantel piece and lights in my little study, but we're not putting up the fresh tree and other decorations until just a few days before Christmas. And, when I play Christmas music early, I do try to listen when he's not around. He still loves to tease me that he's going to call the Christmas police when he hears a carol playing, but I don't think he minds it quite so much any more. I hope so, I always wanted the two of us to share a mutual appreciation for the warm traditions of Christmas in all their wondrous beauty and glory.

When you do officially begin Christmas at your house?


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  1. Like you Brenda, we start late. The anticipation is much more fun through December rather than running out by November. And we do keep things very simple.

  2. I do like listening to music early, rather than later, but as for decorating, it's usually at least the second week in December before I really get going at it. We have a very small home and sometimes, I find that having the decorations out too long just make it feel cluttered by the 25th. Until a couple of years ago, we always had a fresh tree and so just naturally didn't put it up too early. I'm so enjoying these daily posts of yours! Thankyou!

  3. Brenda, such a lovely story. I so enjoy a tree (ours in artificial) that we put ours up early and I usually take it down quite reluctantly. It seems as though the season passes so quickly, we like to enjoy it as long as possible. I am enjoying your post, really puts one in the spirit of the season.
    Wishing you a lovely weekend, be Merry!

  4. I start decorating early in November,about the same time I start the Christmas music. Now on December 26 I’m ready to put it all away.

  5. We start Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. That is how I grew up. I enjoy watching holiday movies, making cookies, watching the tree twinkle at night.

  6. We begin slowly. The Nativity set is brought out for the first Sunday of Advent, and the Advent calendar on the first of December. A natural wreath goes on the door next, and some twinkle lights on the mantels. I changed out the cushion covers for red and white, and hung a garland on the dining room light fixture last night. The tree, a real one, will be put up around the middle of the month or later.
    The week between the years is such a lovely, festive time in my memory that I want the house to look cozy and not tired for then.
    However, I've been looking at Christmas magazines and thinking up ideas for a good month already, and have read a number of Christmas novels.
    Lovely posts, Brenda.

  7. Glad that you both discussed it and understand each other’s viewpoint. To each couple their own! ☺️

  8. I love this story! In my job it is hard to leave it late as I have to start teaching Christmas songs and music straight after Half term in order to learn it all in time! But I like the idea of leaving the excitement till December!

  9. Both Ron's and my family of origin decorated later in the season. The first year we were married, we did similarly, but it seemed each succeeding year we'd start a little earlier until we were decorating Thanksgiving weekend. It works for us and then we can enjoy it all the entire season.

    I find it totally endearing that you both adjusted your expectations to consider one another ("in honor preferring one another"?) and ending up truly loving the adjustments!

  10. As the years have gone by and we've gotten to be Senior Citizens, our celebration of Christmas have become much simpler and much later in the month of December. We still decorate with wreaths on the outside doors, candles in all 22 windows (2 story house), Christmas tree, poinsettias and a few other decorations in some rooms. All this happens about the end of the second week of the month. I still manage to bake a special nine layer old time stack cake for my husband "just like his mother did at Christmas" when he was growing up--this is my Christmas present to him. All this is done with putting forth a lot of effort as we now are much older and slower but we still find it a very joyful time of the year. We are really celebrating a very SPECIAL BIRTHDAY!

  11. Glad that you and your hubby reached a compromise that met both of your Christmas needs!


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