Christmas Trees and Carols
I confess: I am a sucker for sentimentality.
Sure, I try to purge closets and drawers regularly. I am a ruthless recycler when it comes to most paperwork. (Alan can attest; I think I once accidentally shredded a reimbursement check from somewhere because I thought it was junk mail and didn’t open it.)
The ornament collection, though, is sacred.
One of my favorite events every year from as early as I can remember is decorating the Christmas tree.
It’s magic. It’s memories made tangible. That Muppets “Merry Christmas 1980” ornament that used to hang on my parents’ tree. The paper soldier that Alan colored in kindergarten. That porcelain Celtic knot Alan and I got in Scotland. The beaded origami cranes Maya made for us.
Each piece as we pull it out of its tissue paper or storage box brings back memories, not only of when and how we acquired it, but also from every other Christmas it has hung on our tree. As we place their cheap wire hangers on the branches, the tree comes to represent us: it has elements of our lives as individuals, as a nuclear family, and as part of a community.
We have pared down our ornament collection over the years, giving away the mass-produced and purchased ones that have no sentimental value. But the Celtics ornament? Never. I am not a basketball fan, but that is the last Christmas present my grandfather gave me, and it reminds me of him every time I see it.
The magic continues: last night we were finally hanging ornaments on the tree. (We got the tree two weeks ago, hung the lights a week ago, and strung the red beads three nights ago. Having toddlers makes holiday decorating a long-term project.)
I heard what sounded like drunken carousing from outside and checked it out from the porch. “I think they’re carolers,” I told Alan. “They sound like high schoolers.”
“Sounds like too much rum and not enough eggnog,” he said.
From our window we watched them carol in front of the house on the corner. Then they made their way down our street, and noticed us trimming our tree.
The next thing we knew, someone was ringing our doorbell–a young man asked if they could carol for us. Should one ever turn down caroling, even if it is loud and off-key and people are at different places in the same verse?
They sang us Frosty the Snowman, gesticulating with their thermoses and reading (or trying to) from their song sheets. The man at our door explained that it was organized through Facebook and that it was a yearly tradition. “This is the most sober crowd we’ve ever had,” he said. “Usually we don’t get past three or four houses, and this is our fifteenth.”
We told him we’d like to join in when our kids were old enough. He asked how old they were. “Eighteen-month-old triplets.” The usual amazed reaction. As they left our house, he announced to the crowd that we had triplets. One young man ran halfway up our front stairs: “I’m a triplet! No way! I’m a triplet!” Then he rejoined his group and they went to serenade our neighbors.
As sentimental and perhaps silly as this might sound, this was magic to me too: finding community in the dark, sparked by the lights on a tree.