Saturday, December 18, 2010

Getting Ready for Christmas

This time of the year everywhere you go people ask, "Are you ready for Christmas?" My usual answer is, "I'm always ready for Christmas." Years ago we decided that a Christmas celebration was not about splurging on a plethora of gifts, but should be centered about the celebration of Christ's First Coming. How to do that? For me the biggest pleasure of the season is the music. There are wonderful pieces of music that are played and sung only at this time of the year. This year, surprisingly, I haven't heard "O Holy Night" yet at all. That particular song I think should be heard only once in a season, and not heard at all in a shopping mall. The reason I haven't heard it yet this year is because I haven't been to any malls, just groceries stores.

I've already mentioned the annual community Christmas concert that the Arts Academy produces, which is always well attended and much appreciated. Then last week Saturday we went to the Red Deer Symphony Christmas Concert, which was a real delight. For some of the numbers they included members of the Rosedale Valley Strings, a student group. So much fun to watch how seriously the young students attend to their music! Many were very fine players, as we found out from several solo parts that some of them played, and played very well.

But we do make some preparations for Christmas in our home. One of our traditions is to put up a Christmas tree each year. When the kids were little we used to go to the mountains to cut our own tree. That's always interesting--you spot a wonderful tree, slog through the snow banks only to find that it's missing limbs on one side. But, wait, there's a better one; which turns out to have a major defect also when you reach it. Finally you all agree on a "suitable" tree, that is, the nicest one you can find. Dad cuts it down, stuffs it into the trunk, and we all head home for some hot chocolate.

Well, we don't have to go to the mountains anymore. We just go to the other side of the dugout where we have a three acre pie-shaped field with anywhere from 400 to 1000 spruce growing. They're planted in the fall as 12inch "sticks" and left to grow from year to year. We do sell many of them to people who want to have a nice spruce on the yard, or a triple row of them as a windbreak. They go at about 5 to 6 feet, and the tree mover comes with his truck to dig, transport and plant them.

Each year Jim decides which of the trees out there will be our tree for Christmas this year. I like to get it up and decorated by about the 10th of December, but this year was delayed quite a while by that miserable cold I had. So this Wednesday he went out and cut down the choicest tree in the field. It was big! It was a much bigger job cutting it down than he figured on. It almost finished him for the day.

I went out to take a picture of him cutting it down, but he was already at the end of the driveway, hauling it to the house. I gave a hand and together we dragged it to the back door. Later we pulled it inside where it completely blocked passage through the laundry room. We left it there for some hours to melt off the snow
and ice, and then he pulled it into the living room and set it up on the stand. Had to cut off another bottom branch to get it into the stand.

Later that day I started putting on the lights and decorations. The two long strands of lights we usually use weren't enough for this big tree, so I got out the old lights and started checking the strands for burnt out bulbs. This is so frustrating: one or two bulbs are gone on the strand, so the whole strand doesn't work. You need to replace each bulb one by one to try to find the culprits. The first of the old strands was finally in place. And I worked on the second. At last that was all lit up. I carried it to the tree and started putting it in place, and it went out again. Rats!!!! Rats!!! Rats!!!

That, unfortunately, was the point at which Jim stopped by to ask how it was going. He found out that lights are a pain, and the tree is too big! Oops! This was his baby, his specially wonderful tree that he had raised and spent his
morning chopping down. He retreated to the t.v. room and found something interesting to watch.

By the time he was back upstairs again, the lights were in place and the storm was over. All that was needed was to hang every sparkly Christmas tree ball and ornament that we've collected over the years, including the one ornament that has survived somehow from the very first Christmas we had together. I hang it in a prominent place on the tree, and enjoying remember those early days, long ago now. When the tree comes down I wrap it tenderly in padding and put it into its own little box, hoping it will survive another year in storage.

Also on the tree this year is a ceramic bell that actually
tinkles when disturbed. This was one of a set that hung on Christmas trees during my childhood. My sister inherited most of those precious old ornaments, but was kind enough to share this one with me. So it is also a treasure on the tree.

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