It’s December; what’s your Tree Decorating Personality?

The other day my husband said that the month of November dragged and dragged and seemed to go on forever, and honestly, I felt like I couldn’t relate at all. November FLEW by for me, in that I keep thinking that it was just Halloween the other day, and now it’s December. I mean, I’ve been feeling festive for the past couple of weeks, as is my wont at this time of year, but I keep feeling like my life is a speeded-up cartoon of pages flying off a daily calendar.

On Wednesday I went to the post office to mail the Christmas parcel to my mother-and-sister-in-law, and as I walked through the parking lot I saw a man standing outside of the Tim Horton’s, having a cigarette. This would not be notable in the least, except that the man in question looked exactly like Santa Claus: he had a long, well-kept white beard, rosy cheeks, a generally round shape, and – this might be speculation on my part – a jolly demeanor. I wondered if he WAS the mall Santa Claus; although he wasn’t wearing a red suit, he was wearing a red t-shirt, and anyway it would be more than likely that he would change for his smoke break, so as to not disturb the young children who had just sat on his lap in the pretend North Pole in the mall. Nevertheless, I did wonder if he WAS the mall Santa, would children recognize him even without the suit, and if so, how would their parents explain this? Even Santa deserves a break, maybe, or Santa has a stressful job at this time of year. I thought about this all through the lineup at the post office, imagining this stranger, who had done nothing whatever to deserve this thought process, other than having a Santa-like appearance, was actually the real Santa, picturing his smoke breaks during toy-making supervision, and the elves smoking with him with their tiny elf-sized mugs of super-strong coffee, talking with a “HEY! I’m WALKING here!” New York accent. I thought about this until I got back to my car and then realized that I was letting my imagination run away with me, and speculation is just that, speculation, and most likely the fellow in question was not Santa in any shape or form, only a kind-looking, if hirsute, older gentleman.

Not that I’d begrudge Santa his smoke break – it would be tiring sitting there with screaming infants and parents trying to coax a smile out of their terrified toddlers, who intuitively know not to sit on a stranger’s lap and tell that stranger secrets for any amount of candy canes. Have you been a good girl this year? But a smoking Santa might be a little stinky for the kids.

Long story short, now is the time to visit the post office. The lineup was negligible and the clerks are not as downtrodden and exhausted as they will be three weeks from now.

What’s the gift-and-card-for-the-in-laws situation in your house? For what it’s worth, I take this task on myself. I know many people have a “your family, you do the gift” policy, but a) I find I’m probably more suited to shop for a seventy-five-year-old woman than my husband is, b) I have a much more flexible schedule, and c) broadly speaking, once two people are joined in holy matrimony those two people should – IDEALLY – consider the spouse’s family to be their own. Ideally. In any case, it’s all done and mailed now.

I am also the person in charge of holiday cards, for the very good reason that I am the only person who cares about holiday cards. I am the person who chooses the photo, the layout, and the inside message. I make sure to include “from Barkley too, woof!” as I do every year, and I write out and address each one. I do not let anyone near them – which, as I said, no one is really clamouring to help – because to say I’m particular about them is an understatement.

I mention this so you know that I am not judging the people involved in my next topic. I know we all have our things. Lately I have seen a lot of posts about women, exclusively women, who either a) redecorate their Christmas tree after their children decorate it, or b) do not let their children decorate the tree at all. No judgement here, but I cannot relate in the least. Decorating the tree is a full-on family affair in the Boyhouse and hoo boy, can you tell. I love it. I love our extremely eclectic collection of ornaments and I love to see the perfect arrangement of ornaments through my kids’ eyes. Every year I add one or two ornaments to our collection, something to remind me of the year that has passed, and so we have a lot of interesting trinkets; a tractor from when the boys were obsessed with John Deere, a beautiful ball with an Inukshut on it from 2010, a fat moose from the year I was pregnant with the oldest and was enormous.

Did you know that there is much spirited debate in the world about white versus coloured lights? I did not but never fear: our tree has a setting for both, and the lights oscillate between the two. See?

I love when the kids jam several ornaments on one branch; they do that because they think the ornaments want to be together, which melts my heart.

Clue – a gift from my parents – plus two homemade candy canes and, surprisingly, Superman.

A stormtrooper with Ben 10 and a few assorted Cars movie ornaments.

I bought this admittedly tacky Disney castle with Mickey Mouse last year, at Disney World. It reminds me of watching the fireworks show, and how wonderful and special that was. A dream is a wish your heart makes, when you’re fast asleep.

This came from Disneyland, back in 2011. The kids LOVED the Buzz Lightyear ride.

My mom had given the boys these ornaments when they were – as you may guess – four and five, and I love that they are together. Also: Scooby Doo and my marshmallow “Kiss the Cook.”

My mother-in-law gave me this bowl years ago. I keep it filled with driftwood, shells, and smooth rocks from trips my husband and I made to the West Coast, before kids. The vintage ornaments get added at Christmas, and they were also a gift from her. I love the 1960s feel of them.

My husband, bless his heart, spends at least eight hours putting up outdoor Christmas decorations. Not only do we have lights – white icicles and red bulbs – along with lighted deer, trees, gift boxes, a hippo, penguins, snowmen, a moose, and an entire candy cane lane – which he bought for me because I always wanted one – he also decorates our large Mayday tree with glittery ornaments.

Sadly, two of them detached from their hooks. I went to Walmart to buy Gorilla Glue, feeling like an I am Woman Hear Me Roar type. I went to the DIY section, giggling because DIY always reminds me of that line in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, “Do you like to Do It Yourself?” Anyway, there were many different kinds of Gorilla Glue but I chose wisely, I think. When I told my husband, expecting praise for doing what I would strongly consider a Blue Job, he nervously texted me to ask me to please wait until he got home before fixing the ornaments. I think he thought I would glue myself to the table, or perhaps glue my hands together or one hand to my face or something. Given my track record for fixing things, this was probably warranted.

My husband also strung lights on the garage so when I’m making dinner, I don’t have to stare out the window into the pitch-black abyss. It really brightens my mood. He also set the timer so that the lights come on just as I’m driving home from yoga in the wee hours of the morning, and it always makes me happy.

Happy December, my friends. I wish you a month of joy and festivity, and no fingers glued together. xo

Why do we have two Agent P? I don’t know, but I’m glad they’re together.


  1. We have multi-coloured old fashioned lights. We have far too many decorations but none that I am ready to give up, especially the ones my husband made out of wood when we didn’t have much money, we painted them together. The wooden ones are quite worn now, a few have broken, but they go on the bottom of the tree, this has always been their spot, they were the safest decorations for when the kids were young.

  2. My husband shops for his family and I shop for mine for a couple of reasons: (1) his family is large and mine is very small so when we first got together the idea of me effectively going from 0-60 the first Christmas was completely overwhelming so I didn’t even try it and (2) H loves to buy gifts. Really, he is the much more romantic of the two of us and his love language is gifts. So for him, gift buying is an exciting treasure hunt. We both to the Christmas cards: we jointly pic out the photos and the layout and order them. H has created an excel spreadsheet of addresses that kicks into a database that prints address labels for everyone (technology – woo!). I stuff the envelopes, put on the labels and stamps, and mail. I feel like after 20 years together we kind of have things down to a science – it wasn’t always smooth but now we’ve got a rhythm and our own traditions and it works.

  3. I consider gifts to be one of my, er, gifts, so I handle Paul’s family as well as mine. That has gotten a lot easier since both of his parents died. And I am in charge of the holiday cards for the same reasons you are. Plus, although some years they cause me stress, MOST years they are one of the parts of the whole season that give me the most warm-hearted sentimental feelings.

    We have a colored/white-lights debate at my house, and we finally solved it by assigning each child a year in turn, and they get to pick the lights. So right now it goes white, colored, white, colored, colored.

  4. bibliomama2 says

    I never redecorated the tree either, although now Eve is kind of fussier than I ever was about ornament distribution. I am lovingly but deeply envious of your lights that oscillate between white and coloured and your gorgeously decorated outside tree – way to go, Rob. You are lovely, lovely people.

  5. bibliomama2 says

    Oh – I buy all the gifts for both families too, but I’m not gracious enough not to remind him of this at least once during the season. In a very sigh-y, put-upon manner.

  6. I buy presents for my MIL but they are presents from me, not joint presents. Beth buys her own presents for her mom and brother.

    Those white/colored lights are genius.

  7. We do the card jointly. Beth usually takes the photos, but this year we’re using 2 Beth took, 1 I took and 1 Noah took. I always write the text, Beth lays out the card, picks the templates, etc., with some input from me. Everyone signs his or her or their name once it arrives. I do the bulk of the addressing but Beth does some, too.

    We ordered our cards today. They should arrive in a week a half or so.

  8. Your tree is beautiful! We do everything jointly, which is lovely but also a pain. I like having my husband’s input, and he balances my Extreme Decorating Enthusiasm with more tempered thinking. But his schedule and less-enthusiastic-about-the-holidays attitude (not UN, just less) mean that we sometimes end up dragging our feet about things more than I would if I did it alone. I do think that this year – FINALLY – I have won my husband over to the idea of outdoor lights. We shall see!

  9. I love this post! It has awakened the holiday spirit in me, which was sorely lacking to this point. I love the tour of the tree ornaments – I may steal this idea myself. I’ve come to embrace the mish mash, too, and the odd groupings. Also let me say: I am SO ENVIOUS of your “Clue” ornament that I can tell I am going to spend the next hour and a half searching for one online, then paying a ridiculous amount for one on eBay.

    Regarding smoking Santas: I do think having a face full of smoke-breath as a kid would only add to the Santa trauma. But on a more important note. I have often wondered at men with beards, especially long white beards, and whether or not they are uncomfortable. I try to imagine hair all over the lower part of my face (other than, for example, the ten or so dark hairs that insist on growing out of my chin) and it makes me want to itch all over. I cannot imagine the annoyance of shaving is worse than the ick of having food caught in your beard, or your beard yellowing due to smoke, or no one wanting to kiss you, ever.

    It seems I am more than ready to stand in a long line at the post office and contemplate beard matters of the greatest importance.

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