A year ago, I was headless-chicken-running around greater Seattle trying to gather whatever remaining Christmas decorations still available on the shelves. Basically, I was on the hunt for plain colored glass or plastic balls in red or silver.
I thought I was actually getting an early jump on things because it was only the first week of December. But after stopping at Lowe’s and 2 different Home Depots and coming up empty, the best I could do was to pick through the remaining defective and shattered glass ornaments, mixing and matching different sets looking for intact globes.
When I asked one of the Lowe’s employees (an older lady) if there was any more ornament stock, she looked at me with pitying eyes in her red vest and chortled, “Oh silly child… Most of our Christmas ornaments have been sold out since October. You’re so late!”
Late? Who said the first week of December was late? Last time I checked, Christmas was the last week of the month. In my naïve mind, I still had 3 weeks!
It didn’t help that this was our first Christmas in our new home. We had virtually no decorations and needed multiple complete sets of ornaments for our naked (but thankfully pre-lit artificial) tree.
Now the fact we had no decorations the first few years of our marriage was absolutely my fault. I had been obstinately trying to maintain a few of my “I loathe Christmas” ways. DH, on the other hand, is a rabid Christmas fan, and loves all things Christmas—particularly egg nog (the smell of which causes me to vomit into my mouth,) and Christmas music in November, most of which makes my ears bleed. I think my exact words were “Not while I’m alive!” when he brought up the idea of setting up a small Christmas Village in the corner of our house.
Poor DH had no idea that I was such a modern day Grinch.
Now, to clarify, I don’t hate Christmas. I just hate what Christmas Mania does to us, and all the pressure and hoopla the holidays bring. The holidays just seem to make a lot of people a little gift obsessed and crazy. And many times, we end up feeling over-commercialized and materially superficial after the holidays.
I also think my allergy to Christmas was cultivated by spending so many of them in Hong Kong.
Christmas in Hong Kong is a totally different animal, and I had grown accustomed to the crazy, elaborate, and very expensive Christmas decorations that would suddenly appear in the malls and other public space. Christmas decorations in Hong Kong are simply on a totally different level in terms of size and scale. We’re not just talking lights on buildings and trees, but huge and elaborate fake winter snow scenes and motorized European gondolas inside luxury malls. It’s a whole different level of size and extravagance, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the US. Most decorations are tasteful and well done. Others are simply gauche, but in a unique Hong Kong fashion.
Christmas in Hong Kong is a huge retail event. Everyone is out and about shopping, spending money, eating in restaurants, and in the movie theaters. The streets overflow with people and the public spaces (by public space, I mean inside the shopping malls) are filled with people strolling and enjoying time off. No one is at home and nothing is closed. Stores are open for extended hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to cater to every retail demand.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… for Hong Kong retail sales.
I guess it makes sense that my first reaction after moving back to the States and getting married was to move towards the opposite spectrum in my own home: simplicity. Less is more, right? So the rule I instituted was that we would purchase no more than two ornaments for every year we were married. Our first Christmas photos as a married couple show our tree in our old house with… yes, two ornaments! Looking back, it was exceedingly sad and pathetic (everyone who came over kept asking where the rest of our ornaments were.) But my opinion then was that our Christmas décor was truly minimalist and clean!
The following year, we purchased a new home. But because we were moving the first week of January, we decided not to put up the tree. And so last year—our third Christmas together—was the first in our new home. I finally decided to step up my game, and to give a little on my Grinchiness. DH had been patient with me over the last three years, and I felt bad. The classier Christmas chorale music he played didn’t give me a splitting headache. Egg nog (with lots of hard liquor) isn’t so terrible. So, I gave in and finally went to forage for ornaments so that our house would look a little more festive and not so sad during the holidays.
Except by the time I got round to it, I discovered that I was really late to the game, and couldn’t find many suitable ornaments left. I had to shift into Christmas Crazy mode. Two more trips later to Lowe’s and another Home Depot, I had scavenged enough ornaments to fill our tree. Several more trips to Bed Bath & Beyond, Pottery Barn and all the other online sites proved fruitful. Who says the first week of December is late? We finally had a festive-looking room, and to my surprise, it didn’t look absolutely horrid or gaudy.
It looked… well I’ll admit… it looked kind of nice!
So this year, who was the crazy woman first to put up the tree and all the ornaments and decorations the day after Thanksgiving?
Yeah, that crazy Christmas woman in our neighborhood… I think it might be me.
Merry Christmas to you. May you find joy and peace during this season.