Deck the halls with bough of holly


‘A Grinch Guide to Holiday decor’

Well, maybe not ‘Grinch’. Make that more of a ‘minimalist’. It’s not that I don’t enjoy Christmas (well, not as much as I enjoy Thanksgiving; everybody who knows me knows that.) And it’s not that I don’t appreciate a nice Christmas Tree. In fact, I remember gazing out of the car window as we worked our way through small town after small town on those long pre-interstate drives up to my Gramma’s in Northern Illinois, admiring the Trees that were strategically placed in front-room picture windows for maximum drive-by impact.

But I’ve never been one of those people who fusses with the ornaments on her own Christmas Tree, arranging and rearranging them every time she walks by, striving for Holiday Perfection. In fact, I do everything I can to avoid having my own Christmas Tree.

Oh, there for a few years, when The Child was an Actual Child, I condescended to allowing a Tree on the premises. But I got The Dude and The Child to go get the tree. (I made this sound like a fun Daddy-and-Daughter outing, while I cleverly stayed home and sipped champagne.) And I threw a Tree Trim Party to get other people to actually do the decorating of said tree. I made this sound fun, too, by luring friends over with the promise of more champagne — and my Famous Pot Roast — in return for their bringing over an ornament (and this is the important part) hanging it on the Tree. (I’ve told the story of my Tom Sawyerish get-someone-else-to-do-the-work Tree Trickery in a previous hilarious/nostalgic post called ‘(N)o Tannenbaum’, which I invite you to read when you’re done chuckling over this one.)

I decorate myself in preparation for bribing friends with pot roast in return for decorating that bare tree, stage left

Well, then The Child (gasp) grew up and, what with one thing and another, including the fact that she (double gasp) didn’t believe in Santa anymore, it seemed a bit like overkill to ‘do’ the Tree with the lights and the ornaments and the cookie for Santa by the fireplace with the glass of milk with a sip left in it.

The Child, having decked herself with the contents of her Christmas Cracker, enjoys pot roast with a bribed friend (er, Tree Decorator)

Interesting note about The Child and the Believing in Santa Thing. She once asked, “if there’s a Santa, how come he leaves presents under the Tree wrapped in the same wrapping paper we use?” Ever quick on my feet (and on the uptake), I replied, “Clever, Economical Santa. He doesn’t wrap the presents up at the North Pole. He wraps them right in your house, using the wrapping paper that’s already here. That way he can focus more on the presents themselves.” Whew.

So we started downsizing the Tree. The Child wasn’t usually home very long, what with college and all, so weaseled out of decorating duty. Though I did get The Dude to string the lights. (I myself carefully placed any ornaments that could be hung one-handed — since I was gripping a champagne flute during the entire process.)

One of our last Trees. I think it had an ornament or two. Maybe

Yet, as our Child continued to grow, our Trees continued to shrink. The good news about our smaller trees was that we could throw a few lights on them, and except for a few treasured salt-dough artworks made by a Dear Friend, skip the ornaments entirely (no room on those teensy branches!).

Now, while not exactly Childless (though she does live elsewhere and comes home only often enough to inspire the YoYoMa Syndrome in her mother) we are officially Treeless. Oh, I do decorate — sort of. But one rule I do follow is not to decorate for Christmas (even oh-so-minimally) — or to even think about Christmas — until my Thanksgiving turkey and all its leftovers are thoroughly digested. So, even though the airwaves and my email inbox were chockfull of Black Friday and CyberMonday temptations, I waited till December 1 to switch my turkey cocktail napkins to my Rudolph ones.

Mr. Turkey prepares to be pushed aside in favor of Mr. Reindeer

It did make me sad, though, since those of you who know me well know that Thanksgiving and not Christmas is my Very Favorite Holiday. (You can read why here, but basically it’s because Thanksgiving requires no gifts, no religion, no carols, no tipping, and — with the possible exception of my turkey napkins — no decorations.) Though I do condescend to whip out a couple of Christmas-themed table whatnots.

Speaking of tables, I do sometimes bestir myself to sprinkle a bit of Holiday Fairy Dust on the coffee table. This year was one of those times.

A few balls in a bowl, a cleverly placed Statement Ornament, and voila!

Yeah, that’s about the gist of it, decorating-wise. If, and when, we ever hear the Patter of Little Feet around the joint, we will, of course, reconsider the Whole Tree Thing. I come from a long line of Santa Believers (including myself when I was a WhipperSnapper) and I certainly don’t want to break that chain.

Me, when I believed in Santa and in torturing Younger Brothers. Tree decoration courtesy my Aunt Marilyn, whom no one had to bribe

Funny thing about Christmas Trees, though. They do have that wonderful fir aroma. Which is kind of a downside of not having one. But this year, I had just finished my slapdash sort-of-decorating when The Dude came home, gave a hearty happy sniff and asked, “Hey, did you get a Christmas Tree?!?” I shook my head with a happy smile and pointed at the newest addition to my minimalist decor. See if you can spot it in the photo below.

Nope, it’s not those dead-looking boughs. It’s that green candle. Smells just like a Christmas Tree, even when it’s not lit. Thank you, Chini!

It’s my new favorite decoration: it smells like Christmas, but reminds me of Thanksgiving. Because Thanksgiving is when I got it, as a ‘hostess gift’ from a most thoughtful dinner guest — a guest who knows me (and my lack of enthusiasm for decoration) very well indeed.

Until next week, may your days be merry and bright, and your decorating be gorgeous and light!

Amagansett, New York. December 2017

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25 thoughts on “Deck the halls with bough of holly

  1. my kids are pestering to put the tree up this weekend.. we leave it as late as possible. hubby has suggested we buy a pre decorated tree to save the hassle of decorating it… my tree must be at least 15 years old and it looks it too, not good.. bah humbug.. have a lovely Christmas!

    • You are so Christmas-Crackering me up! Do your kids enjoy decorating the tree? You could try delegating. Or bribing. I hope you make it through this jolly season with your sanity intact. I highly recommend large doses of wine xo

      • They love to put the ball balls and tinsel anywhere and argue whilst doing it.. a few years back they pulled the tree down on boxing day and yes it stayed down and got dismantled and put back in the loft. yes large doses of wine sounds good! x

    • Uh huh. I’m thinking we’re “polar opposites”, all right. As in North Polar! You can come down my chimney and decorate my tree any time. I’ll hand you a flute of champagne. And a freshly-bought cookie

  2. The decorations are a bit OTT for my tastes. Mrs Bryntin insisted on hanging a sort of tree shaped mobile thing made out of driftwood in the porch last year. It’s still up there this year because it was sufficiently non-Christmassy to have ever been taken down (or noticed) again between Christmases.

    • Glad to know that The Child was not the only child smart enough to think through the Wrapping Paper Thing. And that your parents were smart enough to take advantage of it. (Wish I’d thought of that, darn it!)

      • Too bad (or not) that was before myriad parenting blogs and groups for sharing wanted (or unwanted) tips. It was a good idea, and I’m sure one that was born out of utter exhaustion! They were likely so over wrapping at that point!

  3. So, I LOVE Christmas. Like, Christmas songs blaring 24/7, traditions are followed religiously, Christmas design on the nails even LOVE, but I HATE decorating the tree. I absolutely adore it and admire it with pride when it’s done, but the actual doing SUCKS. I have to bribe myself with cookies and “just do 10 ornaments a day until it’s done”. I feel the pain, friend.

    • Soooooooo glad to know that I am not alone in my Decorating Dread. I have a friend who lives absolutely and gloriously ALONE and she decorates — even though she is The Only One Who Ever Sees Her Decorations. Sheesh! (oh, and a Very Merry Christmas to you, my dear funny friend) xoxo

      • As much as I dread doing the tree, I think I’d still do it if I lived alone and no one ever came to see me. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without that blasted tree and my beloved ornaments. Merry Christmas to YOU, funny friend!

  4. As I gaze out the window at the monstrosity that is the 10ft inflatable Santa riding an elephant in my yard (I’m married to a wanna-be Griswald) I can’t help feeling a bit of envy for the tree downsizing.

  5. A woman after my own heart! Last year I published a post about why Thanksgiving is the best holiday.
    We are always travelling on Christmas to one or the other’s family, so we haven’t put up a tree in years. I’ll throw some decorations around the house, but no tree. It is not fun for me – it’s work! If I do it again, I’ll take your lead and drink champagne during, or con (er…invite) friends to help. 🙂

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