PART I – The Tree!
I think the one time of year that traditions really hold as sacred is Christmas; or whichever Holiday you may be celebrating at this time. For those of you who have been following my blogs, you know that my sister and I were fortunate enough to be raised by our grandparents, which made for a lot of very old-fashioned traditions during the holidays.
My favorite memory is always the decoration of the tree. Being raised in an English (my grandfather), and Irish (my grandmother) household; they held to the tradition (when we were very young) that Santa would bring the tree as well as the presents. Of course, Santa would never arrive unless you were in bed by 8 pm – I guess they needed the time to set everything up. Always the inquisitive one, by the time I was 5, I figured out the secret. Hiding under the dining room table, hidden by my great-grandmother’s hand-crocheted tablecloth, I could sit and watch (unnoticed) as they rushed about getting all the decorations up and the gifts under the tree. When this was done, I would creep back into bed, only to wake everyone up at 5am for the opening of the gifts (yes, my kids got me back for that one! 5am every Christmas there they were). As we got older, the decorating of the tree still always took place on Christmas Eve. We would walk down the street to where they sold the trees, and my sister and I would pick out the biggest and fattest tree we could find; and my poor grandfather would have to carry it back up the hill to our house. Naturally the base of the tree was always too big for our stand, but nothing deterred my grandfather. He could come outside with the largest carving knife, and having my sister and I hold one end, he would be shaving the base of the tree with the knife in both hand. I would just pray that “dear God” he would still have fingers left when we finished! Next came the decorating; what a scene that was! My grandmother would be sitting in her chair by the fireplace, as my grandfather would be up on the ladder attempting to hang the lights. This was met with my grandmother’s comments, “there’s too many lights on this side; the reds are all together; no, move the green lights, etc”. Thank God my grandfather was the most patient man on earth. Once that was done, my sister and I would put the decorations on. A few of which were from my grandmother’s tree when she was growing up, and then the special decorations that were my sister’s and mine. Of course, we each had our own side of the tree, so it was a rush to make sure that the best ornaments made it to my side! Today, I still have a few of my grandmother’s childhood ornaments, which always go on last in a special spot on the tree. The kids, actually now adults, (but at Christmas they become kids again), still have their special ornaments, which they have accumulated since they were born. We all know though that no ornament goes on until Keith finds his very first ornament, a little bear surround by a train which moves. Once that is found and placed on the tree, we can then continue with the rest of the decorations. Lastly, our crèche is put up. My daughter’s favorite was a “precious moments” one, which went with her when she got married. Her husband refers to them as those “peanuts characters”. Although we always had a small crèche which went under the tree; a few years ago, a dear friend gave me the most beautiful crèche, which I keep up all year round and can be seen whenever one enters our house. Once that was completed I would string popcorn and cranberry garland which would then be wrapped around the tree, a tradition which has been replaced with the standard silver garland. Now all we needed was Santa to magically appear to bring the gifts which would be quickly opened on Christmas morning. Did anyone ever notice that your parents and Santa always used the same wrapping paper?