The Christmas season is upon us. I know this because my house is in the middle of its annual transformation into a festive holiday state, a process that unfortunately does not involve elves working in secret in the middle of the night.
Given my druthers, I’d prefer my holiday décor to be more Spartan, sort of like the actual North Pole. This is mainly because I know the alternative is lugging boxes of holiday tchotchkes up from the basement for distribution throughout the household, which is my wife’s preference. And if you think that’s a battle worth fighting, you haven’t been married very long.
The process starts with the tree. When we were first married, my wife and I would throw our tree into the trunk of my Chevy Cavalier outside the garden department at Ann & Hope. But then kids entered the picture, and we graduated to chopping down our own tree at a tree farm so our family could experience the true meaning of Christmas: jockeying for a perfectly shaped spruce with dozens of cranky people armed with saws.
There’s also the process of stringing lights, one of the two times a year when I’m asked to risk my life at a great height, the other of course being when I clean my gutters. (OK, so that’s once every other year.) It’s a well-known fact in my neighborhood that it’s not Christmas until you see me hanging off the ladder, straddling between the roof and an extension cord that’s come up about six inches short. (Note to self: This year, start on the outlet end.)
Incidentally, there are many more holiday light options these days. Tasteful white shag lights seem to be the trend, but sometimes when I’m around my neighbors I like to suggest that we’re thinking of giant blinking colored bulbs this year, just to watch the blood drain from their faces.
Inside, of course, there’s a fair and equal distribution of tchotchkes, including reindeer, snowmen, Santas, a menorah — we’re a complex family — and the Nativity scene, which I’d advise you to always put well above dog height. (Luckily for Mary and Joseph, the dogs always seem to go for the sheep first.)
As severe as that carnage can be, it’s still never been as bad as the scene in front of my childhood neighbor’s house — it featured life-sized light-up plastic Nativity characters that would get blown over by the wind every night, so that each morning they were strewn about the lawn like frat boys after a bender.
It’s all a fair amount of work, but I have to admit that at the end of the day — after each ceramic reindeer is placed and every strand of tinsel is laid carefully on the tree — there’s something to be said about sitting back on the couch in a darkened living room and looking at the tree and the blinking lights.
After all, it’s probably the one time during the otherwise frantic season when the whole family can sit together, even for a few minutes, wishing each other a Merry Christmas and meaning it. And that’s not to mention the genuine smiles on my kids’ faces when they look up and see me placing that light-up star on top of the tree.
Or at least straddling between the star and the extension cord.
Note: This column originally appeared in GoodLife magazine. Peter Chianca is a managing editor for Gatehouse Media New England. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/pchianca. To receive At Large by e-mail, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”