I grew up hearing people grump that Thanksgiving was being overrun by Christmas. “Christmas decorations in the store before Halloween!” It was blasphemy – each holiday should be celebrated in its own season: no rush, no fuss, and certainly no Christmas lights until after Thanksgiving day.
My kids love Christmas. The Engineer especially loves Christmas, but he’s enjoying a decoration phase right now that makes it positively insane. So … apologies to our neighbors … I think we had the first Christmas lights up in the whole neighborhood! The kids and I actually put up the fence lights on Monday because it was 58° and I don’t enjoy freezing fingers while fumbling with the tangling light strands. We didn’t turn them on until Thanksgiving night though. Because that makes it so much better, right?
We don’t have family within easy driving range. So holidays tend to be just us – quiet, restful, peaceful. Relatively quiet. No huge turkey dinner, no hours upon hours spent baking and cooking and crossing fingers for the turkey to not dry out. None of that. Instead, we squabbled over who lost the string of lights. We cleaned up all the toys, and lugged boxes out of the basement loaded with Christmas stuff that we’ve accumulated over the years pre-kid and post-kid.
It’s funny – all of the stuff pre-kid is precious and breakable. Everything post-kid is sturdy, durable, and kid oriented. Because who would have a squashy foam Santa ornament on their tree if they didn’t have kids?
The funniest thing is that Mr. Genius hates decorating for Christmas. It’s a huge bother – setting up the tree, struggling with the lights, and putting all those little hooks on the ornaments. Plus you have to wrangle kids whose sole goal in life is to plug that strand of lights into the outlet. Never mind they might electrocute themselves, they’re determined.
I don’t particularly hate decorating, but I do hate taking it all back down again and putting it away. It’s annoying. It takes up space. And somehow, in the space of a year, half the outside lights died and we had to figure out why (thank you Mr. Genius for fixing them.)
The look of joy in their faces makes it all worth it. The smiles when the lights turn on, the tradition of hanging ornaments carefully or not-so-carefully – the kids love it. It’s a huge big deal for them. Which is why we spent our Thanksgiving decorating for Christmas. It’s a ritual – our family tradition.
We have a few of those traditions now despite being a young family, and they’re pretty special. Every year we make a set of ornaments. We put some on our tree and we give some to friends and family. One year pre-kids I made dragonflies with beads – the kids love touching them all and playing with them. The year before last we did salt dough ornaments – we kept quite a few, but my favorites were the footprint from baby Destroyer and the hand print from little Princess. You can’t replace those!
We have another tradition that the kids will eventually fight us over – every year we have a photo ornament made with our favorite pictures from the year. I unwisely did a glass ornament the year before last – now we’ve settled on metal and they’re safer. Our tree isn’t decorated with designer ornaments. It’s decorated with memories, love, and handmade beauty. It’s special. It’s personal. And last year, it was put away 3 days after we put it up.
Last year I had a broken hand in a cast. And last year, the Destroyer would not leave the electrical outlet alone. He was determined to plug and unplug the lights, and he worried the crap out of me. So the tree went away. We spent Christmas without Christmas decorations. Sad, but we had no choice.
This year, the tree is in a different spot with a more protected outlet. He’s still crawling under the tree and flicking the power strip switch back and forth. It’s been up one day and I’m already frustrated.
So don’t hate me because all of our Christmas decorations are already in place. Because tomorrow we may have to unplug things and take them back down. Tomorrow we may have to pack everything up and explain to a tearful Engineer that his siblings just cannot be trusted and safety is our first priority. Don’t send me hate mail because the lights are on already. Don’t be jealous and think that we’re super organized in order to accomplish this feat – because it came at the cost of family time with our extended families.
Just smile. And think how happy it makes our little kids. Because that’s what really matters.
Oh, and please excuse the mess. Because the Engineer thinks that cleaning up means dumping all the toys from the floor onto the bench. At least the floor was clean.