We Are Both Right

I’d Rather Have Myself a Merry BIG Christmas

© We Are Both Right

Our dog’s name is Christmas. Middle name Noelle. A cute little beagle puppy we happened upon one afternoon in early November nine years ago. So she wasn’t even a Christmas present.

But since Christmas is a holiday like no other in our family, and the word itself stirs up images of warm, cozy good things, we considered the name a natural fit. Yes, warm, cozy things like an adorable beagle with floppy ears who on a daily basis chews legs off of treasured Power Rangers and breaks into the bathroom to chomp through rolls of toilet paper. The name saves her though, because it’s hard to get mad when yelling your absolutely favorite holiday across the room.

On second thought, the neighbors must think we’re crazy.

But not any crazier than when we invite them over to enjoy some freshly baked Christmas cookies, and they see that we have not one, but two Christmas trees in our house.

It’s not like we qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records or anything. It doesn’t even compare to a woman I know who once had fourteen decorated trees in her home. That’s not me. Yet.

You see, we have two trees because it’s practical.

For one, we love the smell of a fresh-cut tree. It’s the reason we burn a Balsam fir-scented Yankee Candle all year long. But the tree that we spend an afternoon hunting through all the not-big-enough-yet trees for, and that needs to be cut down a few inches from both the top and bottom because my husband’s eyes are bigger than our living room ceiling, is usually ready for the curb long before we’re prepared to part with Christmas.

And since another part of our big Christmas tradition involves a 5′x5′ platform under the tree with a Christmas village and vintage model trains, we had to start putting up an artificial tree in our basement family room. The added work of a second tree meant that we could justify the time spent on a display which takes days to assemble and then take back down.

This way, with a second tree that doesn’t have a shelf life, we can leave the village and trains up for a few weeks in January — giving us all the more time to lay on our bellies with the kids and stare into the lit windows of the storefronts and porches of the New England town we’ve created, deciding which one we like best, just like this aspiring architect used to do at her Uncle Joe’s house.

And the kids are getting better at operating the trains, so we only have a derailment into the heavily-populated village square every third go-round. Delicate heirlooms, but meant to be used. That’s how we view the locomotive and cars which were used by my father-in-law when he was a child. It was well worth the time (and paychecks) my husband spent refurbishing them, since our son is already making plans to smuggle them out of our attic some day.

All this preparation, and we still haven’t even arrived at the main event. But that’s what I love about the spirit of the Christmas season.

Every time S. asks why we do all of this for Baby Jesus’ birthday, I can see her wheels turning about how all of our birthdays have the potential to be month-long celebrations. And that would be just fine with me.

Because as much “work” as all of this might seem, I look at it as a chance to celebrate the special things in our lives in a big way that can’t and won’t be forgotten.

Every other day of the year is hectic. A blur of lunches to pack, clothes to iron, deadlines to meet at work and at home. So for me, the holidays are the perfect reason to take a break from all of that.

But lounging around in my pajamas, watching TV marathons and eating take-out on a holiday isn’t the type of break I have in mind. Nope, I rather invest extra time and effort, ratchet it up a notch, and go all out to make the holidays special.

Traditional dishes like strufoli and baccala that take hours and sometimes days to prepare. Going to church 40 minutes before Christmas services begin, just to get a seat and take in the real spirit of Christmas. Being surrounded by family at a Christmas Eve dinner that lasts until midnight and then going home to put a bike together.

The extra work just doesn’t seem like work, especially not when I hear the anticipation bubbling up in my children for the holiday traditions they’ve already come to know and love. Even when those traditions involve the early morning antics of our holiday namesake, who sometimes gets overcome with the Christmas spirit and starts unwrapping their gifts before they wake up.

While you’re still thinking about how strange it is that I named my dog Christmas, check out the names of Amanda’s Christmas trees. Yes, she names her trees. Do you see why we’re friends?