For me, Christmas day means being reminded too early by my anxious children that I stayed out too late and had one too many spiked egg nogs at an annual Christmas Eve party the night before; picking up loads of paper lying in my living room that’s been ripped off gifts faster than you can say “Ho ho ho”; and schlepping around all day and night to the homes of various relatives, accumulating an ever-increasing load of well-meaning but mostly off-the-mark gifts with each pit stop until, at home at last late at night, we struggle to figure out how to fit it all into our small abode. Needless to say, what I like about the most celebrated holiday of the year aren’t the motions we go through on Christmas day itself, but rather the sure-fire signs leading up to it.
Hokey holiday cards
Holiday cards, for example, announce to me that the season is upon us. And I’m sorry to say, the array of holiday cards I tape up to my staircase seems to get slimmer each year. When our friends were, like us, just starting to have kids, I got far more cards with perfect-looking smiling families in matching red outfits—the little girls with big bows in their hair and the little boys in v-neck vests—than I could count.
I marveled at them. I couldn’t get my husband to dress in a matching outfit with me or anyone else in my family if I promised him the moon. Nor would my daughter deign to sit still with a bow in her hair, ever. And my son would just as soon wear a straight jacket as he would a plaid vest and matching bow tie.
Of course there are a few alternatives to the matching and festively-dressed picture cards. The beach scene card, with the entire family in nautical blue or breezy white, their sun-kissed faces looking brightly into the camera, is another popular one. There’s also the boast-it note, complete with a laundry list of annual “highs”, including the promotion earned by dear old dad, the tennis tournament won by mom, and all the phenomenal ways in which Jonny and Jane are growing every day. Our family doesn’t send these, either.
Though the number of holiday cards I receive each year dwindles, the popularity of outdoor decorations seems to be soaring—at least in my neighborhood. Maybe it’s a reactionary response to our neighborhood’s covenants, which don’t allow front doors to be painted any color other than white.
At night during this time of year, my neighborhood looks like the fourth of July on steroids. There are twinkling lights of every color, including blue and purple. I’ve even seen some huge green and red strobe-light like lights on the corners of houses, which resemble the city’s controversial traffic cameras more so than yuletide decorations and make me feel like I need sunglasses after dark.
I pass on the over-the-top holiday cards, but not on the decorating. Having decided to let my pre-teen daughter take charge of this task, the front of our house now resembles the board game Candy Land’s Gum Drop Mountain as opposed to the simply adorned home it is during the rest of the year.
I did, however, stop short of giving the go-ahead to flashing lights and blow-up characters in front of the house. Unfortunately, I can’t say that everyone in the neighborhood did. During the day, some lawns in my neighborhood are littered with what look like a bunch of dead Santas and snowmen. But at night, they come to life, blown-up and bobbing in the wind as I pull into my street. And that’s how I know the holiday season is here.
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