10 years ago I celebrated Christmas for the very first time. My wife and I were still dating then, and three days after hosting our first Thanksgiving she asked I was willing to get a Christmas tree. Eager to be a good partner and learn what all the fuss was about, I agreed. We went down to the corner lot and procured a small Scotch pine that we named “Buddy.” Having grown up celebrating Chanukah, I learned to trim and decorate from a pro. Our small tree lived on an end table, but filled our home with love and a rich glow at night. My wife lit the Menorah with me for 8 nights and started learning my traditions as well.
Four years ago, when our first son was born we enjoyed a quiet thanksgiving in Big Sur. We spent Black Friday on Pfeiffer Beach and returned home Saturday as Sunday is our traditional tree day. We headed north to Santa Rosa to cut down our own tree; not quite in the Griswold tradition, but still more memorable than any corner lot. My wife loaded our baby boy into the Bjorn, while I handled the lumberjacking. Now living in Marin, we returned home and hauled our full size tree into the living room. I cued up a Christmas playlist while she chose favorite ornaments from what had become our large, shared collection; a cake from our wedding in ‘09, a Central Park sleigh from a trip to New York and one from the previous year commemorating our pregnancy. Our son laid peacefully, gazing up at the lights; our own little Christmas Miracle.
Two years ago, with my wife 38 weeks pregnant, I can recall her full silhouette next to my toddler in the foggy, morning air. No longer content to Bjorn, he’d graduated to helper! Together we selected and hauled a magnificent redwood. I remember drinking warm apple cider, and how the car smelled on the drive home. Ever the adventurous toddler, he dumped out both crates of ornaments, now a collection larger than our tree can safely handle, and selected his favorites; primarily farm animals. We danced to Christmas music, while he rearranged the olive wood manger.
We also celebrate Chanukah. My son recognizes the blessings said over the Menorah, but still cannot understand why you don’t blow them out like at a birthday party? You do open presents after, so he has a point. The whole entire month is a celebration. Aside from those 8 nights, any night spent sitting by the tree, perhaps with a log in the fireplace, is magical.
Last year was the best yet! With our younger son in the stroller and my junior lumberjack running everywhere, we returned to the farm on Thanksgiving Sunday. The boys took a surprisingly happy picture with Santa and we ate caramel corn. Trimming was a bit more tricky with two young boys, but we managed to make it work. Our tree got a line anchoring it to the wall for safety and we kept the fragile ornaments closer to the top.
Chanukah was also special. My older son could recite the blessings and almost spin the dreidel. We have a great picture of us panicking as he reaches into the flames of the Menorah!
Christmas has special traditions. We host a large meal with friends on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, we wake up early to start with stockings before I make my famous biscuits and gravy for breakfast. Gifts are exchanged and the boys play. In the afternoon, we’ll repeat my childhood with a trip to the movies and a Chinese food dinner.
I’m very excited for this year! We are spending Thanksgiving in Mendocino, but will come home on Saturday. Sunday will inevitably be the highlight because for us that is when Christmas starts. In our home, Christmas is a month long holiday, that begins with a trip to the tree lot, followed by trimming and decorating our home. We will spend more time together, playing at the foot of our tree, and less time in front of the television. Chanukah will also be a part of that. Family will visit. Our Toddler will turn 2 and will comprehend more and more as the month progresses. My older son will greet the return of his beloved Christmas tree train and have a list for Santa ready to go.
I can’t wait…
This article was written in October and published in the December issue of the SMMC Crier, a local parenting magazine. This year’s traditional tree Sunday was delayed due to heavy rain. We started on decorating the house that day, but waited a full six days before making the drive north to Valley of the Moon farm in Santa Rosa to select and fell our tree. I was convinced it was too small, was outvoted and subsequently proven wrong later that day. Presently, our home smells like heaven and the boys are fighting for control of the Christmas train.