Last year we slowed down the Christmas machine, but it still had quite a bit of leftover energy. Now we're going to further unplug this monster.
No Christmas tree for us. This is a pretty big decision, given that our extra-large artificial tree has been a dominating feature of our living room for quite a few years.
Too dominating, we've decided. It's a pain to set up.
Just about as big a pain as driving to a real tree lot, agreeing on a suitable choice, tying it to the roof rack so it has a minimal chance of falling off on the drive home, carrying it around the side of the house to our deck, forcing it through a sliding door, getting it more or less upright in the tree stand, wrestling with tangled light cords, laboriously affixing them along with a huge number of ornaments, and then collapsing on the couch after a long evening and saying to each other, "Was all that work worth it?"
No, it wasn't.
Which is why we went the artificial tree route, which "merely" involves hauling four large boxes in from the garage, figuring out which boxes hold the different-sized branches (inevitably our labeling/storage system from the previous year is found to have glitches), sticking the branches into their proper color-coded holes, unbending the twigs that have gotten unduly bent, and then starting with "wrestling…" above, leading to the same collapsed "Was all that work worth it?" question.
So we're going to see how empty our lives are without a tree this Christmas. I suspect that the only void we'll be experiencing is free time.
No putting up and no taking down of a tree that had become an obligation rather than a celebration. Now I can spend those obligatory hours on more enjoyable activities. Like buying gifts for myself.
For once again Laurel and I have agreed to only give each other presents that the other person has bought for himself/herself. That guarantees an "Ahhhhh! Just what I wanted!" on Christmas day.
Sure, we'll probably bend the rules a bit and get each other a spouse-selected present or two. But like I said last year, explaining why making a contribution to the Elizabeth Bowers Education Fund will be so enjoyable:
You can't believe how much happier I'll be this year giving a donation to the fund rather than wandering around the Salem Center Mall the week before Christmas, searching aimlessly for a present for Laurel, who is horribly difficult to shop for because (1) she's picky when it comes to clothes and personal items and (2) she likes shopping for herself and already has anything she really needs, just because I know she'll have gotten me some "extra" gifts that I didn't buy for myself and I'll feel like a Scrooge if I don't make an attempt to buy her something, even though there's a really high probability that she'll be returning it the week after Christmas.
We haven't reached the end of our Christmas machine unplugging. But the less juice this materialistic ritualistic creature gets, the better.
The Puritans had a good idea: ban Christmas. That's the most Christian thing to do, really, since Christmas' source is thoroughly pagan.
Some of the key ingredients of modern Christmases - holly, ivy, fir trees, drinking and feasting - go back as far as it's possible to see. Our own cosy kissing beneath the mistletoe is a pale reflection of an older tradition of sexual licence and abandon.
Well, maybe I won't give up totally on Christmas, if we can just get back to the good old days when this holiday was celebrated the way it should be.