So the holiday season is definitely here: Starbucks has their holiday drink menu available, Christmas lights are strung up in the major shopping areas, and the radio is full of ads for lawn service companies who will come and decorate your house for you if you don't want to climb ladders. The whole house-decorating thing seems to be a bigger deal around here than what I remember as a kid -- I'm not sure if it's a regional difference, the urban/smaller town difference, or simply a larger consumer shift over the past 30-some years. Growing up, only a few houses in my neighborhood put some lights in the yard. There was a house a few blocks away with a big picture window in the front -- they always placed a huge mechanical Santa and a big tree in the window so you could drive past and see it.
The major decorating on our street won't start until Thanksgiving weekend, when our across the way neighbors will take down their "Harvest" and "Thanksgiving" decorations and begin the construction of a tinselly Nativity and flashing-light extravaganza. During December we can always easily give directions to anyone who cares to visit us, simply by pointing out their yard. In fact, if you wanted to visit us by helicopter you could probably land via their lights. It's truly astounding. They're a retired couple, and keep their yard decorated year round, with seasonally appropriate stuff: Valentines, Easter, July 4th, Halloween, etc etc. But Xmas is when they go all out.
We don't put any lights in our yard. Mostly because we just don't have that much extra time/energy to bother. We can barely keep the yard clean and mowed, much less decorated. But I do like looking at other people's lights. The little kid in me is still excited by them.
I grew up in a non-religious and not even nominally Christian household. We did have a Christmas tree for a few years, initially because my brother really wanted it -- he wanted to be like the other kids, for a change. But our whole family kinda got into the aesthetics of it: picking lights and ornaments that seemed tasteful, pretty, or meaningful to us.
As an adult, I didn't do anything for Christmas -- the day of, I'd usually go out to a movie with some friends, maybe eat Chinese food. Or just take a walk in the park, read a good book, and wait til the world returned to normal the next day. I was comfortable with that. It's not my tradition, so I didn't feel like I was missing something. Though it can be a weird day to be alone, even so.
But my partner grew up in a Christian family, and she really, really loves Christmas. More so than anyone I've ever known. And experiencing the season through her eyes is really joyful. She loves Christmas movies, holiday music, the whole bit. Last year I surprised her one night by going out and getting a little artificial tree (the 3-foot tabletop size is all our tiny house can handle) and some lights & ornaments. It was a really great experience to see her face when she came home and we had Christmas in the house. It will be fun to pull out that stuff in a couple of weeks and set it up again.
Today was the first day that felt a little holidayish. We ordered our vegan Thanksgiving meal from the health food place (although I like to cook, we make it a real holiday for both of us by having someone else cook for a change!); we stopped by Starbucks and indulged in fancy soy drinks; and my girlfriend's been humming holiday music. All of that stuff I used to scoff at now makes me happy, since it makes my partner so happy. We're looking forward to the end of our respective semesters, and being able to hang out, go to the movies, and pursue our creative projects. I feel fortunate that we've been able to create relatively stress-free ways of spending the holiday season. The fall semester is always such a bear to get through, that it's nice to have something to really look forward to at the end of it.