Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Christmas Decorating

In my family, Christmas decorations usually went up the weekend after Thanksgiving. It wasn't an attempt to rush into the season but rather a practical issue. Thanksgiving usually affords people back home a 4-day weekend so it provides ample time to dig out boxes of decorations, untangle them, and arrange them as artfully as possible around the house.

In retrospect, I'm sure that my decorating wasn't all that great, but I was the one who usually applied myself to such tasks with great enthusiasm since I love the atmosphere of the Christmas season. My mother, father, and sister may have been happy with the fruits of my labors, but they couldn't really view doing it themselves it as anything more than a chore. Over the last few years, I pretty much felt the way that they did and ended up depressed and giving the holiday a miss. Part of the reason for that was that I didn't exactly feel showered with spirit by anyone around me (given that this is Japan and the holiday is not celebrated the same as in the U.S.) and part of it was plain old winter depression. After awhile, even the peppiest Christmas spirit can be dampened by all the negative talk and blah responses from those around her. I must admit that part of what did it was cynical talk of how commercialized the holiday has become (it's true, but we don't have to buy into it) and how lazy the internet and computers have made people about traditions like sending cards.

This year, I decided I wasn't going to let myself get bogged down in low spirits and I pushed myself to drag out my box of dwindling decorations. A few years ago, the box was bursting at the seams with a 3.5 foot artificial tree purchased many years ago in a little rundown shop in Tokyo, several strings of lights, a large tin full of ornaments suitable for a small tree and more candles than our dinky apartment could accommodate. The candles got used up. The lights died. The tree got tossed out about 4 years ago when years of hot lights melted too many of it's plastic "pine needles" and quite a few of the little snap on faux pine bits were lost. The state of that tree gave me too much of a sad Charlie Brown feeling and it depressed me to look at it so I had to let it go.

Christmas plates my husband gave me.

Since then, I unfortunately, have not seen an artificial tree like it anywhere so we've been treeless. That left me with all the tiny ornaments and the remaining bits and pieces that I still had on hand. I made the best of what I had and felt quite a bit better for having done so. About half of the items I've kept were gifts, most of them from my husband and putting them out where I can see them reminds me of how much he cares and wants me to be happy. It also reminds me that he has always loved the way I regarded Christmas and enjoys how I set up the apartment at this time of year.

A big vanilla candle I bought this year from the FBC surrounded by little pine candles my brother-in-law gave me some time back.

One thing I realized is that the decorating is a way of slowly wading into the cold waters of the holiday season. It's not really about the stuff I'm draping around the apartment so much as how it makes me think and feel as I go through the process. Also, a lot of the items hold certain memories and connections which are greater than the quality or appearance of the items themselves

Some of the most unimportant thing have stories behind them which I'd forgotten. The picture above is of a bunch of Coca-Cola polar bear ornaments that were distributed on 1.5 liter bottles of Diet Coke about 12 years ago. While the ornaments themselves aren't any great shakes, they are souvenirs of my recovery from severe back pain at that time. When I first started having unbearable pain, the doctor I went to told me I had to stay in bed for 2 months in order to get better. I did as he suggested but didn't seem to improve. At some point, I decided that he was wrong and initiated a plan for my own recovery which included increasing amounts of exercise and walking in particular. After about a week, part of the routine I established was walking to a store once a day and picking up one bottle of Diet Coke at a time. These ornaments were on the necks of those bottles at that time.

After that experience, I realized that doctors sometimes don't always know what they're doing when recommending treatment. I don't know what would have happened if I'd have continued to just lie in bed but clearly the time had come for me to work on the muscles a bit and move on from rest. Doctors may know more about bodies and how they work than we do but, in the end, they're just making educated guesses and sometimes those guesses are wrong. I hadn't really thought much about that memory until I dragged out my box of Christmas ornaments.

At the end of my decorating, I felt as if the process had done me a lot of good and I feel much better going into the Christmas season than I have in quite awhile. I'm hoping to do more of the things I used to do before I got into a rut a few years ago.


Helen said...

I'm so glad that you are feeling happier about Christmas this year. Last year you seemed quite depressed about it.

I'm not going to start decorating until December 1st or so. I like to leave everything up until after New Year, so if I decorate too early I get sick of it too fast!

mitzh said...

Awww, I love your Christmas decorations, so pretty!

Glad your happy about Christmas this year, I am the one who seems to be experiencing the holiday blues..

But I have to be up for Christmas cause my daughter loves X'mas! :D

Shari said...

Helen: Thanks for your kind comment. :-) I hope that my decorations are up long enough to make me sick of them considering I haven't seen them in two years!

Mitzh: Thanks! I can see how easy it is to get depressed at this time of year, though I guess having children around probably makes it easier to find your spirit. People often say it's a holiday for kids and it really is for the most part. For adults though, it can be something special in a different way. It's a time to be the best person you can be spiritually...not that we all shouldn't try to be that all the time but it's harder to be that way all the time than to muster up the energy to manage just for one month.

mitzh said...

I just wanted to let you know that I have closed down my blogger blog and move to wordpress --->

I really believe that Christmas is for children and for adults yes, I agree we all have different reasons and ways in celebrating X'mas.

Shari said...

Hello again, Mitzh. :-)

I actually had been following your move and have already incorporated your new URL into my links. I'll be looking forward to continuing to read your blog!