The weather outside isn’t frightful. It’s a beautiful summer day. Clear skies abound with warm sunshine, and a gentle breeze gently wafts through the open windows. It’s fast approaching mid-December, and somehow the “Christmas cheer” hasn’t reached me yet. Our shopping hasn’t even been started, though there is a master list that has every purchased planned out. Carols don’t fill the music coming from our computers. Wandering the shops seems somehow surreal, as if everyone else has jumped on board the Christmas bandwagon and somehow we’ve been left behind.
I’m usually a lot more receptive to Christmas. I went through a period of a couple of years where it wasn’t the most wonderful time of the year. Not that I had anything against it, but I didn’t hold onto that excitement and wonder as December approached, and the whole situation seemed more of a somewhat amusing anecdote than a side-splitting laughter inducing tale of hilarity. That changed when I met Beth, when having a significant other made the whole season a lot more joyous. There were presents to be given. Presents to be received. Presents that didn’t come from parents or family members, and hadn’t been expected due to our usual early-December “what do you want?” conversations. The last few years have been exciting at Christmas; the last two moreso as we’ve enjoyed them as a married couple. This year however, the uptake is slow.
The Christmas tree has been delayed. While we don’t hold to a fixed tradition of sorts, it usually goes up around the first weekend of December, and serves as the signpost of a transition into the yuletide season. Putting the tree up has been something we’ve done with our housemates, as they share our tree each year, whether that be from us being the more sentimental ones, or simply the more organised. Christmas music of some description fills the air as we talk, laugh, assemble and decorate. This year the first couple of weeks have seen us with the house to ourselves, as our housemates have been up in Queensland, spending an early Christmas with one side of their family. As much as we’ve wanted to get into things, it seems wrong to put the tree up without them.
There’s been speculation of what it will be like this year. Our housemates’ son is now over a year old, and is walking and trying to talk. He helps unpack the dishwasher, picking up each glass, plate or bowl and handing it to you with a noise as closely approximating a thank you as he can manage. Pegs are his other speciality, handing them to you one at a time as the washing is hung out. We’ve considered whether he’ll get into the spirit of the season with us, and unpack the decorations, handing them to whoever ends up decorating the tree. As it turns out, he’s in his high chair on the dining table, eating his food, as we get around to it.
A Friday afternoon comes around, and we’re all finally home and free at the same time. The box is dragged out of the roof, and the tree begins its assembly. Upon something akin to forethought, we realise that the full-erected tree won’t fit into the planned space without cutting off most of the major thoroughfare for upstairs – a bad idea, as nice as it may look. Bookcases are unpacked, entertainment units unplugged, and furniture is moved around in an attempt to rearrange the living areas to fit the 7-foot tree. After 10 minutes of sweating, we sheepishly realise that the now completely rearranged furniture needs to go back to its original configuration, with a mere single bookcase moved to the opposite wall to accommodate the tree. Ten minutes more, and we’re all set to continue.
Music is put on, the windows are opened, drinks and snacks make their way upstairs, and we begin to ease into things. The form of the tree is quickly assembled, and the decorations soon follow. Laughter flows, smiles are fixed to our faces, and the tree takes shape. I sit back and soak it up as Beth finishes decorating the tree.
I’m happy. Our tree is a catalyst, and I’m finally starting to get into the mood. I find myself becoming more expectant, looking forward to the next two weeks before Christmas finally arrives. A quick walk down to our local supermarket soon after leaves me happy, joyous and filled with Christmas cheer, as I realise the decorations are a great idea, and not preemptive marketing. A smile fixes itself to my face as I arrive home and view our completed tree. It finally feels like Christmas.