Halloween’s been over for a few weeks, so it’s past time you put up those Christmas decorations. Better go grab that neatly packed Rubbermaid bin/damp cardboard box down in your basement. Throw some snickerdoodles into the oven, blast Bing on the hi-fi, and go nuts.
Now, some of you probably have very elegant, stately Xmas decorations. Maybe your decorations are sleek and clean and shiny. Maybe you’ve got a monochrome thing going, and every little bit of décor is a beautiful blazing white, from the wreath on your front door to the tree itself.
And then some of you aren’t psychopaths.
Some of you have a ridiculous collection of odds and ends assembled over years, inherited from long lost relatives or purchased on a whim. The only thread of consistency between each piece is a hazy recognition that this is indeed the hap-happiest season of all. A little red here, a little green there, a few Santas, a ceramic Christmas tree. A freakish menagerie of holiday wonder.
Those are the kinds of Christmas decorations I, myself, have. And here are some of my favorite pieces …
THE PINE CONES
So, at some point in my academic career at St. James Elementary School here in Eau Claire, our teachers had us craft these weird holiday decorations from pine cones and ribbon. We took two pinecones, connected them by a short length of ribbon, and then covered them in Elmer’s Glue and gorgeous green glitter. Pretty simple. And pretty suggestive. The result is a kind of Yuletide version of Truck Nutz™. For some reason, my mom didn’t want to keep these when she was downsizing her beloved holiday décor. So now I have them. And now my family gets to see them. Every year. Like a bizarre anatomical model of the Christmas Spirit’s reproductive system.
You light candles beneath the angels so the heat waves the Holy Spirit pushes them along their circular route, chiming the bells and lightening your heart.
I have no idea where it came from, but back in the days o’ yore, my parents acquired a tiny Santa Claus able to hold onto stuff like a festive potato chip bag clip. It’s got a very 1970s-gas-station-tchotchke vibe. Imagine a wee little Santa the size of a mouse, sitting down with his stubby legs stuck out straight, his arms (stiff as little boards) thrust forward, hands together. You squeeze his sides to open his arms, and then release so he can clamp onto stuff. His oversized head can swivel side to side, smiling a creepy little Christmas smile. Like he knows something.
This is yet another decoration that migrated from my mom’s house and into our own Christmas bin. One year, I started hiding it in strange locations, clamping it onto the salt shaker in our cupboard or under a pillow, trying to surprise my wife because I’m hilarious like that and she totally loves it. Soon enough, the whole family started hiding it, too. And soon after that, my kids started calling it “Santa Baby” after the uncomfortably sexual song of the same name, which added another vaguely creepy vibe to the whole thing.
Obviously, this is one of my most valued possessions.
THE ANGEL CANDLE CHIME CAROUSEL THING
I’m betting you’ve seen these things – a shiny metal contraption with a set of little angels up on top, able to spin around in a circle and ding little bells as they go. You light candles down beneath the angels so the heat waves the Holy Spirit pushes them along their circular route, chiming the bells and lightening your heart. It’s like a divine STEM project you can set on your mantle next to your plastic snowmen.
My wife had one of these growing up, and she loved assembling it with her brother each season, so we got our own. The one we bought comes packed into a tiny cardboard box. It’s like a free-standing 100-piece puzzle held together by friction and gravity. It’s about as stable as a house of cards. That’s on fire.
The kids love it.
Pulling out odd items like this each and every year is part of what makes the holiday great. They’re like weird old friends you’re happy to run into now and then. It’s comforting to know they’re still there for you, and they’re still able to trigger all those warm, fuzzy feelings.
And hey, if you prefer sleek, monochrome decorations, I’m sorry I called you a psychopath. We all celebrate in our own way, and who am I to judge? I’m just gonna sit here and enjoy my pine cones.
Late disclaimer: If you don’t celebrate Christmas, just pretend I’m offering you extremely well-researched and articulate observations on the mind of Christian-raised Midwesterners, and please do not assume that I assume you celebrate Christmas. I do not assume so.