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.
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.