When people say “Oh! My family loves Christmas! It’s our favorite holiday!” I just smile politely, but really I’m thinking Honey, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Because while their family may go all out for the actual holiday, my family’s love for “the most wonderful time of the year” runs deep. So deep, yet so subtle that it catches you off guard if you’re not paying attention.
My parents Christmas village is great place to start. You know the ones I’m talking about: the cute little snow-covered houses with matching figurines engaged in snow-related activities, such as caroling, sledding, and ice skating. Really, these villages remind me of the final scenes in Funny Farm with Chevy Chase and how he paid off his entire town to look like a Kinkaid painting in order to sell his house. So I imagine one of those figurines is just a city man who’s made a huge mistake and is bribing his town to put on a good show.
Our small, but formidable, Christmas Village.
This village has been a constant fixture in my parents house. And by “constant” I mean “permanent”. As in 24/7/365. This village has been up longer than I can remember. But really, I kind of love it. It’s in a tucked away spot that you could easily walk by and not notice it, but it’s permanence says a lot about our love of the holidays. And no, I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s up all year round. All year round.
But when it comes to the month of December the army of Santa Clauses come marching out of their plastic bin slumber and take over the house. We’ve got a thing for Santas here. There’s the classic 2 foot Coca-Cola Santa that seemingly whispers Shh! to a little dog while snagging a Coke, Santa going down the chimney with a bag full of toys, a more old-timely, thinner Santa in the toy shop, even a Santa at a computer! (How modern!). Most of these guys are in the main room with (one of three!) Christmas trees. We just have to make sure to move them from the fireplace so we don’t melt them.
A Christmas store exploded in here.
Beyond the village are the Christmas trees, which number at three this year. There’s one in the kitchen, the main room, and our living room (which is the biggest one). All of my trees growing up were fake (Mom says that they started with the fake trees because of the energy embargo in the late 1970s…), and only a handful of years ago did my parents upgrade to one that had built in white lights.
(Side note: Southerners love them some white lights. When my parents moved down from Kentucky/Ohio them came bearing colored Christmas lights, which for my mother became a bit of a scandal the first year she put them up. It’s only been recently that you see multicolored lights, even more so with the LED variety. But the typical Southern home has the following exterior decorations: wreaths hanging from every window, single candles in each window below said wreath, wreath on the front door, and white lights tastefully draped across the bushes in front of the house. It’s classic, but can be boring.
My house, on the other hand, never followed the tried-and-true Southern Christmas. Yes we would have the candles and wreaths in the windows (one of which I would inevitably drop outside while decorating), but we went crazy with our lights: I would make a multicolored light archway over our driveway, we’d have two old-timey “lamps” we would have on ever side of our front door, we would candy-cane the trees, and it wasn’t long before the 7ft blow up of Frosty and Mickey Mouse appeared on our lawn. To the classic Southerner we were an eyesore, a holiday abomination. We relished in our flair.)
Our fake trees were always fun to put together, mainly because of the stand that we used. This stand, ladies and gentlemen, rotates. AND it plays instrumental holiday music. Impressed? You should be. But let me tell you, having a rotating stand made stringing beads and lights a lot easier. I love sitting in the room with only the tree lights gleaming, slowly spinning around in a hypnotic swirl of ornaments from various vacations, but most from Disney World.
One of these things is not like the other…
Yes, that is a monorail from Disney that you see circling the tree. Disney is a major…part of my family’s life. You know how some people are “Disney” families? That’s mine, and it becomes more obvious during Christmas. You’ll notice in other photos Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck nutcrackers, that the tree next to the fireplace is covered in Disney ornaments, and that throughout the house are Disney/Christmas figurines made special for this holiday season.
Nothing says Christmas like Grandma’s plum pudding! And the troupe of Mickey and Minnies.
Nothing says Christmas like plum pudding! And Mickey and Minnie.
While I’ve gone through a love/hate relationship with Disney (especially during my teenager years; see below) every time I see different ornaments from the parks, or ornaments of characters, I smile and think about the memories associated with them. I’m a (closet) Disney person, and that’s okay.
But aside from our decor choices, our Christmas spirit was fueled by another outside force: the ever-present Christmas Light Show. There a two in Georgia that have always captured the hearts and minds of my parents: Magical Nights of Lights at Lake Lanier (Atlanta) and the Calloway Gardens Fantasy in Lights (Columbus). Both of these “shows” are actually just drive-through events. Miles of Christmas lights fashioned into intricate displays of Santa’s workshop, the Twelve Days of Christmas, and a winter wonderland turned in to miles of cars filled with children gleefully starring out, the passengers taking photos, and the driver complaining about the lights from the driver behind him. You can imagine that, during my teenage years and 10th+ time seeing the same lights (Southerners also love consistency), I was a bit bitter and resentful about such outings. Each was a 2+ hour drive away from our place, only to drive through 6 miles of lights at a speed that is so slow you might as well be walking. On top of that one would have to deal with SOME people stopping theirs cars to take a picture of the exact same display that was there the year before. It was a challenge, one that I feel had a formative influence on my life (especially when it comes to patience).
So that, in a nutshell, is Christmas with my family. Add to that a beautiful Christmas mass (we no longer have the stamina, or eardrums, to deal with midnight mass), and hours upon hours of cooking/baking fun in the kitchen (ham! sweet potatoes! orange bread!) and various Christmas films and you’ve got yourself a more typical Christmas. But who wants to be typical? I’ll take all of that and a rotating fake Disney Christmas tree with multicolored AND white lights any day.