It’s not that I’m a Scrooge, exactly. I like Christmas as much as anybody does — the lights, the parties, the food, the chance to wear sparkly clothes with impunity. Presents? Santa Claus? Milk (punch) & cookies? More is more. Bring it on. But when it comes to decorating, I lean toward extreme laziness minimalism. The thought of wrestling with putting up the tree and finding unpacking the ornaments makes me want to take a nap. Color-coordinating hand towels with guest soaps, replacing everyday pillows and artwork with holiday-themed decor and creatively displaying Christmas cards in a Pinterest-worthy style are simply beyond me. Our struggles with our%^&*$@ front-door garland this year are well documented — does anybody have an industrial nail gun we can borrow? — and I’ve desperately clung to stuck with our gold mailbox bows now for eight years for fear of having to buy new ones out of loyalty to the young florist who made them. Look, I’ve done the basics. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, the presents are wrapped and the Chex mix ingredients are ready. What else do you need? Naturally, you can guess that this is NOT the way I was brought up. My mother, with help from my dad, is a top-level Christmas advocate who turns their house into a holiday fairyland. There are surprises and delights everywhere you look and she’s always coming up with something new. As I do with folks who excel at the mysterious skills of gardening & painting & knitting, I admire and appreciate my mom’s Christmas creations without any troubling thought that I really should attempt to duplicate them myself. Thanks, Mom!
Here are two new trends in holiday decorating I’ve noticed over the past couple of weeks. One I love and think is an adorable idea. One I don’t understand and wish it would go away. Let’s start with the cute first. Don’t you think this wreath made out of colorful felt balls is just the best thing ever? Love, love, love! It’s simple and festive and different and reminds me so much of the green construction-paper wreaths my kids used to make in Sunday school with a few felt balls glued on and a sprinkle of red glitter. I’ll bet you’ve got a few of those saved, too! And then, on the right, we have … well … quite frankly, this looks to me as if a whole bunch of ribbon sort of upchucked on an innocent mailbox. I mean: Why? What’s wrong with one — ONE — bow? I’m all for exuberance and over-the-top, but this has gone over the top and out the door and onto the curb. And if your mailbox looks just like this, please forgive me. I don’t mean to be critical — well, OK, I guess I do — but I’m seriously disturbed by this trend of decorating mailboxes with so much mesh ribbon that it looks as if they’re being bubble-wrapped for their own protection. If someone can explain this to me, then I’m open to changing my mind. In the Christmas spirit and all. But until then — bah, humbug!!!
My daughter and son-in-law, who live in Huntsville, Alabama, wanted to decorate their front porch with something fun, scary and inexpensive for Halloween. This is the first year they’ve had a front porch and the first year their son, 18-month-old Capt. Adorable, could sort of get into the Halloween mood. Money and time were their main limitations, and I think they nailed it. Of course it helps to have a talented and skilled artist in the family — my son-in-law created the spooky light cover in 30 minutes with plain ol’ construction paper, tape and staples. And they bought the oversized fake spiders and spider-webs at a discount store and already on sale … to make way for Christmas decorations, I guess. They’re working on a haunted-house jack-o-lantern for the finishing touch and then they’ll be ready for trick-or-treaters. Still no decision on the Captain’s costume. My daughter, a vegetarian who’s letting the Captain eat meat until he’s old enough to decide for himself, is toying with the idea of wearing a vegetable-themed T-shirt and dressing the Captain up as a hamburger. Adorable!
Welcome to the first Saturday of 2009 and the ninth day in Cathy’s New Year’s Countdown for a tip on dismantling Christmas at your house. Look, even if you are one of those wonderfully organized people who already have (almost) all the holiday things wrapped, packed, labeled and back in the closet where they belong, you probably have a snowperson here and a Christmas candle there, still hanging around. And of course all the rest of us are staring at the tree that needs taking down today — or is that only me? Anyway, I admit I’m only so-so at housekeeping and downright bad at organization and in no way should I go around dispensing advice on these subjects, but I do love that wonderful feeling when everything is clean and uncluttered and efficient. Granted, because I’m inherently lazy and content to live like a slob, I don’t enjoy that feeling very often. But I know how to get it without much effort, so here’s a quick and easy route to post-holiday satisfaction: When you finally take it all down and put it all up, challenge yourself to 1) Throw/give away three things you don’t use but keep in storage anyway (this is where you can guiltlessly get rid of all those ugly Santas your aunt keeps giving you) and 2) Reorganize so you can easily put your hands on the essential part of your family holidays (the stockings, the Christmas CDs, the Advent calendar) that you spent two weeks trying to find in 2008. Do these things, and I promise you December 2009 will be a little less stressful. Not much, but a little. And isn’t that good enough? Check back for day no. 10 in Cathy’s New Year Countdown.
Welcome to Day No. 5 of Cathy’s 12 Days Before Christmas Countdown. You know, decorating your front door is like tying a festive ribbon around a carefully wrapped Christmas gift — it sets the tone and makes a promise for good things inside. I love this door in my daughter and son-in-law’s apartment complex in Huntsville, Alabama. A young couple with babies just moved in here, and I imagine that both time and money are tight. So they wrapped cardboard pieces in holiday paper and jaunty bows to create a quick, simple, inexpensive and fun entry — especially easy and environmentally friendly when using leftover scraps. I love this idea! It reminds me of one year when I was young and my mom wrapped our front door in thick red paper and a huge white bow — creating, I thought, the world’s largest Christmas present. Moms are good like that. Check back tomorrow for Day No. 4 in Cathy’s Christmas Countdown — the easiest food gift ever perfect for co-workers, neighbors and everybody else.
Wednesday as I contemplated four boxes of Christmas decorations, I wondered if this was the year to go minimalist. And although my friend Karen, who is minimalist personified, encouraged me to walk away and go drink something instead, I couldn’t resist the siren song of stuffed and appliqued snowpeople, hand-carved wooden Santas and glittery silvery stars — if I could only find them. And that reminds me: Why do we use the terms “up” and “down” when we talk about Christmas decorations? I’m always “putting boxes up” and “taking boxes down” when clearly the main direction is “out” … of the guest-room closet. But I did restrain myself when decorating this year, remembering that every January 2 is the day I deeply regret my early-December enthusiasm of adding touches of red and green to every empty space — and some not so empty. This year, inspired by my friend Debbie’s elegantly simple holiday mantle, I tried to adopt an unusual-for-me less is more approach for my own. I mixed candles, a pine garland, red and green glass bottles and a lantern that usually sits out on the deck in summer with some snow people I’ve unconsciously accumulated through the years. It’s fresh and clean — I think, anyway — and gave me the added annual bonus of decluttering and deep cleaning the mantle. One holiday decorating project down, @$%& to go.