Year After Year

I’m a big fan of Christmas traditions.  This is the one time of the year when “doing things the way we’ve always done them” feels not only right, but almost mandatory.  I love trimming my tree with ornaments I’ve had for decades, and I do it while listening to Nat King Cole’s Christmas music, just the way my family did when I was a child.  I find it both meaningful and comforting to carry on old family Christmas traditions….most of the time.  But there are a few traditions that I would love to abandon, if only I could.

I could do without the nasty Christmas cold I manage to come down with every year, and just once I’d like the breakfast casserole I make for Christmas morning to turn out the way the recipe promised.  But it never does.  It’s either under-cooked and soggy, or over-cooked and dry, and it always sticks to the baking dish.  Still, my family chokes it down each year and assures me that it tastes just fine, because (of course) that casserole is a Christmas tradition.

IMG_2768But if I could abandon just one of my Christmas traditions, it would be the annual battle to put the lights on my Christmas tree.  I prefer the large, old-fashioned lights that throw out a warm, cozy glow on a dark night, just like the ones my family has always used.  You’d think that putting a few strands of them on the tree would be easy.  But each and every year year, something goes dreadfully wrong when we try to light up our tree.

Last year the Christmas lights I had been using finally wore out and refused to work, so I embarked on a frantic search for replacement lights.  Which every single store I went to seemed to be sold out of.  I even gave the LED lights a try, but after carefully putting them on the tree I realized that while they are indeed bright to look at, they don’t actually light up a room.  Eventually, after much time and effort, I did find some satisfactory lights and was able to spend my December evenings basking in their glow.

This year I had the lights and figured it would take twenty minutes, tops, to string them and then we could hang the ornaments.  I was wrong.  I put the lights on the tree, but then realized there weren’t nearly enough.  So I took them back off, found another strand in our basement and put them all back on again.  Then the strand in the middle of the tree stopped working, so I took those off while my husband went to the store to get some more.  By the time we finally got the tree lit and looking good, the entire afternoon was shot and we decided to go have pizza and hang the stupid ornaments the next day.

But at least the lights are on the tree, and soon I can add the ornaments.  My Nat King Cole CD is still working (I checked), so I think I’m all set.  By this time tomorrow my tree will be fully decorated and I can just relax and enjoy the rest of the season.  Until, of course, I catch my annual Christmas cold….

68 thoughts on “Year After Year

  1. You have just reinforced my commitment to go tree-less another year. I put up other decorations but having a tree has felt like a burden lately… plus, we don’t have a natural place to put one in our front room. I’ll visit friends’ homes and enjoy their beautifully decorated and lit trees, then come home and enjoy not having one (and having more room to move around).

    Good luck avoiding your annual cold!

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    • I think that’s a sensible choice. We all have things that we can’t do without, and things that we can do without. For me, a Christmas tree is essential, even though getting the lights on is a pain. But there are other things that I choose to skip some years, because they do feel like too much work. I think each of us gets to choose what make the holidays special for us!

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    • No worries, mine is artificial. We put that one in the living room, and then to a small real one in the basement which we put up closer to Christmas. One of the main reasons we use an artificial one in the living room is so we can put it up right after Thanksgiving!

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    • We used to do a real tree in our living room, which ALWAYS caused me to catch a cold. Now we put the real one in the basement, and although my cold is still a tradition, it’s not nearly so severe or long-lasting. Someone told me it’s not really the trees that cause the problem, but the mold that grows on them. Either way, getting it out of our main living area (or in your case, out of your home at all) seems like a wise choice!

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  2. oh I hope you avoid that cold this year! My tree is up too – thought it is an artificial pre-lit with little white lights. Not your tradition, but my joy 🙂 and easy! Although there is one strand out that is making me crazy – seeeeeee – always something – lol!

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  3. Took advantage of our lovely weather this afternoon and put up the outdoor lights–one string of LED lights over the garage. Festive, and manageable. Planted some amaryllis bulbs on Friday, won’t have blooms by Christmas, but its another of our traditions. Some years yes, some no on the tree–we shall see.

    Enjoy your evening by your tree! Sans cold, I hope!

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    • I think you are wise to do what you feel like do each year! I do have my traditions, but I’m not totally inflexible. Some years I skip a few of them, and haven’t really regretted it. Traditions are meant to be enjoyed, and if they become too much of a chore, then it’s hard to enjoy them. Thanks for the comment!

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  4. I have to echo the allergy comment. I always had a cold that started around the 1st week of Advent and would end up as Bronchitis by Christmas. I had pneumonia a couple of times. As soon as I started taking allergy medication and switched to an artificial tree I miraculously was no longer ill at Christmas!! I love the big lights too. We had some that were gifted to me by my parents (when they down sized their decorations) but they stopped working and I couldn’t find any replacement bulbs. I finally found the bulbs but that wasn’t the issue. This year we’ll put up the tree with little lights but all the ornaments – each with a memory and a story!

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    • I’m so glad you got rid of your natural trees and started taking allergy medication. I’m doing allergy shots now, which have helped immensely.
      And I hate to admit it, but on the small tree we put up in our basement, we did use mini lights last year because I found strand with traditional colors: no pink or purple. And I rather liked the look of them and they did give off a nice glow! So perhaps my troubles with tree lights are coming to an end. I can only hope!

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  5. Your post is somewhat less cheerful than one would expect this time of the year. Don’t let the little problems disturb your Christmas spirit. It is not good to have the cold which you don’t have and the casserole which you haven’t baked yet drag you down. The really good thing of your post is that you reminded me and many others to prepare and get ready for Christmas. Prompted by you, I will get busy tomorrow and set up some Christmas for the house. Wishing you a blessed Advent’s Season for you and your family.

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    • No worries, my Christmas spirit will come! (It already has increased since we’ve just finished decorating the tree and it looks great!) I think I’m just suffering from exhaustion from hosting Thanksgiving, trying to get yard work done during the warm weekend and some other family commitments while trying to get the house ready for Thanksgiving. So I do think I will cheer up, and am on my way there…
      And you’re right about the cold! I may not get it this year, or at least just get a slight one. I’m taking allergy shots now and they have helped with my healthy in general. And perhaps this is the year I decide to break tradition and just serve cinnamon roles for Christmas breakfast. Some traditions weren’t made to be kept! Thanks, Peter, for reminding me to enjoy Christmas and not sweat the small stuff!

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  6. I can relate to your preference for old-fashioned lights as against the wishy-washy modern strings of light. Every year on Diwali (our Christmas equivalent) we are into that inevitable debate with our conscience regarding the earthen lamps vs LED.

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    • Thanks for the support! I think the new lights are wishy-washy for sure. And I think you should use whatever lights you prefer for Diwali this year. Doing what is meaningful to us is important, I think. Thanks so much for your comment!

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  7. thanks for the reminder that Christmas family traditions are worth making the effort to keep. You’ve inspired me to get our tree up sooner than later. I make that breakfast casserole every year, also! It’s decadent and delicious and odds are your family would miss whether over or undercooked. I think the key is getting it in the over early, erring on the side of a little underdone and then letting it stand. Looking forward to sitting in the dark room with my lit tree and listening to George Winston’s December.

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    • Thanks, I will try that with the casserole. I think I cut into it a bit too early when I take it out, so your idea of letting it stand a bit is a good one. And don’t you think there is nothing better than sitting in a room lit by nothing but the Christmas tree and listening to Christmas music?

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  8. Enjoyed reading this. I too am challenged to put a decent breakfast on the table – not a problem at other times of the year. I go out of my way to look up recipes that seem practical and delicious but somehow get my timing wrong – maybe there are just too many distractions around! Enjoy the decorating:-).

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    • I think that’s a good point. There may be just too many distractions on Christmas morning for us to concentrate on our cooking. I keep thinking I should serves something simpler, but then every year I decide to give that casserole just one more try!

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    • I think it’s smart to celebrate early when some of your family is going to be out of town. When our kids were little, we alternated going to my family and my husband’s family for Christmas and Thanksgiving. And when it was my family’s turn for Thanksgiving, we just celebrated Christmas with them the day after Thanksgiving. It worked!

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  9. Ha ha! I know what you mean about holiday traditions and foods. I’m not proud to admit this, but, I’m a takeout queen. If all my relatives would be okay with it, I’d be perfectly happy bringing in delicious holiday meals cooked by chefs in the gourmet food shops in my area. But for some reason, people seem to think if you didn’t cook it yourself, you didn’t care enough about making a great meal. Whatever! 🙂

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  10. Mmm… maybe time to shop somewhere there are no children? (Is there such a place?) then maybe you won’t catch a cold – or is it temperature related? And… maybe you could ask someone else to make the casserole… or would that be taking things too far outside your comfort zone? As for the lights, I remember a similar post about this last year. 🙂

    However, it all goes (and I hope it all goes well) here’s a little early cheer for you:

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    • Oh yes, lights are a yearly battle for me! I think the cold is more allergy related, so I’m hoping the allergy shots I’m taking now will help. And I think it is time to find an easier casserole to make on Christmas morning, or as you say, ask someone else to provide it for a change!
      But finally, THANKS for the video! That is my very favorite Nat King Cole song. And it was so thoughtful of you to share it!

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      • Well, last year you said you enjoyed Nat King Cole and I went of to listen to some, remembered how much my mother loved his stuff (particularly ‘Nature Boy’) and I’ve been stuck ever since. 🙂

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    • Thank you, I think I do need it! By the way, can you put a link to your blog on your gravatar? When I click on it, all I can see is your photo and intro. And if that’s the way you prefer it, that’s fine. But adding the link there would make it easier for others to visit your blog.

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    • I love decorating the tree, except for putting on the lights. But I have to have them (unlit trees are just not right), so I do it anyway. However, if you ever have extra time on your hands and want to visit St. Louis in late November/early December, I’d be more than happy to let you have fun putting the lights on our tree. Just saying….LOL!

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  11. Oh, I admire your traditions, Ann. This summer we gave away our tree and ornaments so we will just have a poinsettia on the coffee table with gifts beneath. I guess we are getting old! We would always have eggnog with rum and Christmas music while we decorated. Well, we will still have eggnog! Happy holidays!

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  12. Christmas is near and as u said dis is one time of the year dat i always look forward tooo .the cold windy days ,the christmas tree nd its decoration,christmas songs..everything of christmas just enlightens your inner spirit.each day u have a positive feeling .
    Very soon i will be putting up my tree as well.
    Nd hope u avoid ur cold dis year.
    Stay healthy stay happy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think that is rather common. I love to decorate, but even I sometimes think, “I need to tone it down a little.” I remember that in her later years, my grandmother decorated for Christmas by hanging some silver bells on her front door, and putting a small artificial tree on a table between the dining room and living room. She put one box of blue ornaments on it, and that’s it…no lights at all. I thought it was odd at the time, but the older I get, the more I understand!

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    • In the US, stores put up their Christmas decorations the very second that Halloween is over (if not before). The season here starts earlier every single year, which is very annoying! When I was growing up, we never put up our tree before December 10. Then I married a man who believed it should go up right after Thanksgiving, and so that’s what we do with our artificial one. (And I admit I like it.) But we do wait to put up a real tree in our basement family room until mid-December so it doesn’t dry out before Christmas.
      As for the cold, I used to think it was just too little sleep and too much time spent among people who were very generous with their germs. But then my doctor told me that some people are allergic to the mold that can grow on live trees (it starts in the woods, apparently) and the allergic reaction can morph into a cold. That’s the reason we put the real tree in the basement where I don’t go too often, and I’m also getting allergy shots now. So here’s hoping I actually do avoid that cold this year! (Last year, I only had mild one and considered that my own personal Christmas miracle.) Sorry for the long answer to a simple question…..

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  13. Stay well Ann. You can’t afford to catch a cold and get sick, after all, who would cook that delicious Christmas casserole.
    I love lights on the tree but like you I’ve struggled in the last few years, replacing whole strands and bulbs. We gave up on real trees years ago due to both hubby and son getting bad hayfever. You’re way ahead of me putting it up. Enjoy.

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    • Thanks, Miriam! Honestly, one of the main reasons we have an artificial tree in our living room is just so we can put it up early without worrying about it drying out. The benefits of no allergic reactions was just a plus! And I am going to try very hard to stay well this season…I’ll let you know how it turns out. Take care, my friend!

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  14. I really hope you won’t catch that Christmas cold, Ann! I know only too well how it is to be ill around the holidays!
    Normally I’m all for Christmas but this time with my mum having had that accident and her still being in a lot of pain it has somehow retreated to the back of mind. I kind of an not really in the mood and neither is my poor mum. But I already suggested to her to that we should celebrate as soon as she’s feeling better and then I will decorate and sing carols! 😊

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