I grew up in a mixed religion home, my dad was Methodist and my mom is Jewish. It made for some long winded explanations come holiday time of the year. I had to explain that we had a tree AND we lit the menorah, but no, we didn't get presents for 9 days, we did sometimes eat a Christmas ham we also spun the dreidel, ate chocolate in the shape of coins and definitely wrote a Christmas list to Santa.
I always loved picking out the Christmas tree it was my favorite thing about the holidays. The smell of the pine trees as we walked around the lot of Ging's Family Nursery searching for THE TREE. My mom and I always wanted the fat round tree and my Dad and brother
wanted the tallest. When we finally settled on our Douglas fir I would be fascinated as the college kid, home on winter break, would casually wrap up our tree and help my Dad strap it to our car. We would drive our fresh smelling tradition home. One step closer to presents, hot chocolate, egg nog and no homework.
The tree would live in our garage the piney scent replacing the oily smell of baseball mitts and tools until my Dad decided that it was ready to decorate. The decorating of the tree was a HUGE event because it meant crossing the border into the "Dead Room". Most families have a living room in which they, well, Live in. My family has a dead room. The only time we are allowed to occupy the most central room in our home is during a special occasion such as a major holiday. At these times proper behavior must always be observed and if you messed up the vacuum lines in the carpet you should at least try and push them back in place before mom noticed.
The Decorating of the Tree meant that we were allowed passage into the dead room and not only that, we could sit on the couches and even make (somewhat) of a mess. In turn my mom got to assault us with the same Manheim Steamroller and Kenny G Christmas tapes.
It begins with my brother putting the lights IN the tree, not on ON...in. It does look really nice but he is rabid about doing it correctly. It's best to let him do this process alone so as not to get blamed for making the lights blink or go out or being set with the task of finding the one. bad. light. on the whole. effing. strand. Once the tree is properly lit from WITHIN we commence with adding the ornaments. Boxes pulled down from the attic are sifted through and there is much nostalgia shared. My dad would pull out every single ornament and go, "AAaah! I remember this!"
A place for every ornament and every ornament in it's place, the matching reindeer always go on the bottom of the tree, the pink and blue frosted ornaments always at the top but not the tippy-top that is reserved for The (golden) Angel who shares her place with a Star of David my brother made eons ago.
My side of the tree is the left, full of years of angels and ballerinas made at church bazaar craft fairs sent from my grandparents, while my brother has the right side full of bears, Scooby Doo and fishing related ornamentation. Wildcards like shiny glass ball ornaments and things that have been around so long we don't know whose they are can go anywhere, as long as it doesn't drag down the branch and cover up another ornament (especially if it's one of my brother's).
On this night my brother and I would get one more ornament to add to the years of collected memories, one more to place on our stalwart tree's branches and our tree always withstood it all. Finally, the silver garland to wrap it all up in shine. Then we sat on the couch opposite our creation, turned off the lights and turned on our tree. To the collective sounds of 'Oooooh' and 'Aaaah', we basked in the glow of ever growing Christmas cheer.