Last year, on a crisp November day a week before Thanksgiving, I took a leisurely drive out to the country to buy my Christmas tree. I thought I was really something, so on top of things, so organized, so, well, perfect, and I enjoyed basking in my own glow all the way there.
Turns out, I wasn’t that early after all. The lot was a tad sparse but even so I found the perfect tree, they bundled it up for me, and it sat trussed up under my pergola like a petty thief in stocks, its feet in a bucket of ice water, until a week before Christmas.
I tell you all that to tell you this.
In the past four days I have heard of three different families who have already put up their Christmas trees. In their houses. With lights. You know, decorated.
One post on Facebook gave us a glimpse and the words, “The first of my trees is up.” It is an amazement to me that people have more than one tree. There is no judgment in that statement, I am just so disorganized or lazy or something that I think I am Mrs. Claus when I get just one set up, and even then, I don’t decorate the whole thing since it stands in a corner. So, multiple trees just buffaloes me.
But if ever there was a year, a time for early Christmas trees and sparkly lights and something to divert us, surely the year 2020 is it. I think about the scene in “Auntie Mame,” during the depression and she has just lost her temp job at Macy’s because her receipts book is such a mess.
She returns home, glum and worried, and convinces her little family they “need a little Christmas,” right now and she means right now. I think all those Christmas trees going up all over the place are testimony that we also need a little Christmas, right now, or at least something very much like it.
I don’t decorate much for the holidays, although last year I found some cool tin Christmas trees and angels at varying in height from one to three feet. They looked so great all nestled together in the shop, and the angels blowing their little horns, that I bought them all. And they look equally great on my hearth, and festive and happy and I spend about a total of three minutes setting it up.
That includes the trip to the basement, where they reside the rest of the year. Because I have a fresh tree and wait closer to Christmas to get it up, the tin trees are my nod to artificial. They hold me over until I drag the real tree in like a body rolled in a rug.
There are other things we can do as we prepare for the holidays and look for ways to stay calm and centered. I am not very good at ritual, and I don’t mean necessarily formal ritual, although I’m not very good at that, either. I am not even in the habit of returning the can opener to the same drawer after I use it.
In my line of work, though, I have participated in rituals on a fairly frequent basis. Workshops and self-awareness seminars often have an element of ritual to them. My Czech friends seem to be especially adept at ritual in the every day—the lighting of candles when they share even the simplest of meals, even gathering once a month for colleagues to celebrate the birthdays and a table laden with finger foods, and there, a pillar candle lit in the center.
I like ritual, admire it, am almost always moved by it, but self-conscious and insecure when it comes to creating rituals myself. But as the winter comes on, the virus continues, I find I’m drawn more and more to the notion of ritual. And what is the decorated Christmas tree, even in early November, but the physical embodiment of all sorts of ritual?
Therefore, gentle reader, I’m doing my bit. As soon as I finish up here with you, I am cleaning off my coffee table so I can light a candle without all that I own going up in flames. I just got off the phone with Zach, a very nice young man, who will deliver firewood on Thursday. I’m adding the fire pit to my winter ritual, too.
When I have a spare three minutes, I’ll bring my tin trees up from the basement.
Right now, and I mean right now.