Of course it’s the Christmas tree that is the centerpiece of any holiday decorating. I’ve always been partial to Douglas or Frasier firs, with their dusty green, waxy boughs. And since we live near a local green grocer that has a gorgeous selection of trees, we’ve always done it the Christmas Story way, not the Christmas Vacation way. Unfortunately, with our pet menagerie, I fought needle drop every time the lab walked by the tree and wagged her tail or one of the cats swatted at some pretty bulb that caught her eye. Seriously– I’d keep the vacuum out so I could easily sweep up pine needles from the carpet three times a day. This year we took the plunge and bought a gorgeous artificial tree—Christmas heresy to some, I know, but I’m decidedly less Grinchy about the tree this year. In addition to the tree, nothing says “Deck the halls” with Christmas memories than these lovelies.
- Crèche. I have the same crèche we had when I was growing up. (We called it a manger scene back
then, though.) It isn’t a fancy imported olive wood nativity from the Holy Land or a trendy Willow Tree crèche—nope, I can remember when my mom drove to Montgomery Wards catalogue department in Akron to pick it up. The figures are plaster, some with facial features slightly askew (“hand painted in Italy” says the box). The human cast of characters is pretty standard, but it’s the dog with ears and tail standing at attention and the 3-legged lambs (those spindly little plaster legs don’t stand up to any dropping or mis-packing) I love most. When I was little I’d spend hours rearranging what was a kind of Christmas dollhouse to me.
- Garland. Nothing says celebration to me like a droopy, loopy garlands and I’ve loved them even before the pennant craze I see on Etsy and Pinterest. I have a felt and burlap “Merry Christmas” across the sliding door to the deck, a wooden “Let it snow” with snowmen, hearts, and snowflakes over the kitchen sink, and a pine cone garland draped on the bookcase. Our house is small, but that’s okay since I can deck each room on the main floor with a garland.
- Snowmen. They’re kind of my thing. Of course we have some snowmen ornaments on the tree, but it’s my snowman collection that is dear to me—and even better, since they’re not just for Christmas, I can leave them out through January. A few tin snowmen, a wooden snowman or two, a soft little fleece guy—those tiny mittens and carrot noses and twig arms and neck scarves make me smile every time.
- Train. Two months ago my dad died. In his salad days he was a model railroader and his O-gauge railroad ran along the entire wall of the basement with hills and tunnels and turnarounds. The countryside and cityscapes were populated with billboards, stores, and cars remembered from his childhood. Dad even wore an engineer’s cap sometimes when he was out and about. But since neither my brother or I had the time, space, or expertise to carry on Dad’s hobby, my step-mom sold most of the collectibles to a dealer. But not before I took a Lionel locomotive, green boxcar, and red caboose for under my Christmas tree. And there it runs, much to the chagrin of our beagle dog who thinks it’s a mad marauder from the hinterland, come to pillage our hearth and home.
- Books. Most of you know when my children were young (before my life as a teacher), I worked in a children’s book store. Each year I’d buy a new Christmas book and add it to the pile in a gold wicker basket. Each year I’d haul out that basket and I think even as teens the kids would page through their favorites. Now it’s waiting for grandbabies to be old enough to love those stories.
- Sled. When I was five we moved to a small little white ranch at the top of a hill. That Christmas there was a sled under the tree—a beautifully restored Flexible Flyer that had been my dad’s as a boy, now repainted red and white, with re-varnished side rails, stenciled with L A U R I E. I’m not about to take it for a slide anymore, but I do attach some greens and a big red bow and that old girl decks my front stoop each year.
So there you have it–when it’s Christmas in our house, you can be sure I’ll deck the halls with these Christmas memories. What can’t your home be without during the holidays?