09 December, 2011

Getting into the Christmas Spirit: Part One

I will be the first to admit that up until December first, I am a Scrooge. Christmas decor in the grocery stores in October is ridiculous to me, Christmas music on November the 10th sends me into a fit of inner frustration, and don't even get me started on Christmas trees up before Thanksgiving.

My opinion is - that in the last three months of the year, there are three very fun holidays, each designated with its very own special month. What's better is that each holiday is at the end of each month. Halloween, October 31st. Thanksgiving, the last Thursday of November. Christmas, December 25th. We get an entire month to enjoy each holiday on it's own, but it seems to me that Christmas - or should I say "End-Of-December-Consumerism" is bursting at the seams wanting to be noticed now, Now, NOW!!!

*steps off of soapbox I didn't even realize I stood up on* "How did I get up here?"

But enough about that. This post isn't on Scrooge (me) before the holidays. This post is about Debbie Downer (also me) getting into the Christmas Spirit!

My husband (who is Polish... as in Polish from Poland, and speaks Polish - not "my-great-great-great-great-grandfather-immigrated-here-and-that-makes-me-Polish-even-though-several-generations-have-lived-outside-of-Poland" Polish) grew up Roman Catholic with a whole different set of traditions than my little white bread American self did. His tradition was that his father would bring home a live tree on Christmas eve and the family would decorate it. Then, when the first star of the evening (which is actually Venus... but I digress) sparkles in the sky, it was time to sit down as a family for a traditional Christmas eve supper - which usually included fish (no animal meat) and no alcohol. Also, they set an extra place setting at the table, which remained empty for unexpected visitors and in memory of loved ones who are no longer with them. As adults, they might exchange presents too.

This is my husband's family on Christmas Eve in Poland:

From left:  Mirosław, Witold (my husband), Aleksander, Anna, & Bożena - my in-laws. I love them so,  and they are certainly not at all as stern as they look in this photo! haha!

In my house, we would always set up the tree (usually false, but occasionally real) the first week of December, after the feeling of Thanksgiving wore off. Around December 5th, we'd set out decorations and put them up. The outside lights were my responsibility (except for the ones along the eves of the house, which, when I was older, became my responsibility - remember, my parents are older). My mother and I would traditionally listen to Johnny Mathis' Christmas album and a few others while we set up our ENORMOUS Christmas village together. Often, we would dedicate an entire room (we had a reasonably unused sitting room), removing furniture and setting up more than 75 little ceramic houses, a train set running through the village, and hundreds of tiny people. This village was spectacular, complete with snow (polyester toy stuffing and white towels), frozen lakes with people on them skating (hand mirrors facing up with stuffing around them), roads (spaces left in the stuffing and towels), and mountains (the boxes that the ceramic houses were stored in, stacked on top of each other and covered with white towels and stuffing). People from church would come to our house and bring their kids to have a look at the village. When word got out, people we didn't even know started coming over to have a look! We had a merry-go-round that spun and played music, as well as an ice rink that had magnetic people dancing around. One year, our village made it into the local paper. 
Each year we'd get a couple new houses, always different from ones we already had, after Christmas was over when we could pick them up for pennies on the dollar. Every time we set up the village it was different but two things remained the same. The "mountain" would always have our Disney castle set on top of it, and a little set of plastic houses all in a row which my parents got their first Christmas together and which started the whole "Village" tradition. Unfortunately I do not have a photo (here, in Ireland) of our set up.

After my mom passed away, her ceramic houses were dispersed among her children, and I kept only two things: 

the Disney castle:

(I can't look at the castle without imagining it with three eyes and a horrified expression... but I love it still the same)

and the little row of plastic houses.

(they are made to have twinkle lights placed inside, but I do not have an electric outlet nearby)

Without these small elements in our home, to me, it just doesn't feel right. 

My husband is happy to wait until Christmas eve to put up the tree, but I really enjoy having it up throughout December to help set the mood... plus it's fun to tease each other by putting wrapped gifts under the tree!

Coming from two different worlds it seems, it's fun to figure out which traditions we want to keep and merge into our own family traditions. From his side, it's the traditional dinners with amazing Polish foods like carp and barszcz with uszka on Christmas eve and bigos on Christmas day. From mine, it's the decorations throughout the whole month, though I might not go crazy with my own Christmas village.

I definitely get less Scroogy once our decorations are up.

I'll tell you all about some of our new traditions and some of my favorite ornaments in a continuation of this post, "Getting into the Christmas Spirit: Part Two", tomorrow!

What are your Christmas/Holiday traditions?


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