|Joshua Tree: wind and lights|
We don't make a fuss over Christmas in our house. For one thing, it's just us two adults, and really, Christmas is a children's holiday. Or a believer's holiday. And we are neither kids nor believers.
|This year's lights|
But we usually do at least put up lights—this year being no exception. We would have brought our year-old live Christmas tree (a Norfolk Island pine) inside and decorated it, except for the kittens/cats, who are pretty much guaranteed to wreak havoc. So we're doing without this year. Maybe next year they will convince us of their maturity and we'll give it a shot.
|My mother's last visit to us at Christmas|
For most Christmases during my mother's last decade or so, we did not have a tree, since we predictably spent Christmas in Los Angeles. But there again, we typically decorated the blinds with lights or splashed a couple of poinsettias around.
I like having a Christmas tree, mostly because I enjoy unwrapping the ornaments. There are antique ones, and ones we received as gifts, and ones we bought as souvenirs, in addition to the ones that represent interests of ours: music, dogs and cats, skiing and climbing, etc. The ornaments are, in a way, a reminder of who we are.
|Randolph the red-nosed moose|
Back in the days before I had my eyesight corrected, Christmas was the one time of year when I didn't hate being virtually blind. Gazing at the lit Christmas tree and making the glowing orbs grow and diminish and blend: that was such a pleasure. But I'm not sorry to have lost that experience, in favor of good eyesight without correction.
|Bokeh: an approximation of my previous poor eyesight|
As for presents, we usually don't give gifts. To each other, or to anyone else. This year, we received two presents: the annual calendar from David's sister, and a fancy-shmancy datebook from one of my writing partners. We already knew what they were (well, of course we didn't know what art the calendar would feature, but Patty came through again: Molly Hashimoto BIRDS), but still, even I must admit: it's fun to open a wrapped package.
|A geocache: A Holiday Tree for Dogs|
The tradition when I was growing up was to open the family gifts on Christmas Eve—the German tradition, or so I've always held—before going to the evening candlelight carol service at my mother's church (Congregational). I loved the big bowl of small tapers with their little paper drip guards, and oh yeah, the big dark church illuminated by flickering candlelight: all those glowing faces. And the beautiful singing.
|And yes, Milo got an ornament on the aforementioned tree|
The next morning, Christmas morning, was when the stockings would be stuffed and Santa's presents arrayed under the tree. I don't remember any specific Santa gifts anymore: there was the practical (clothes), but I'm sure there was a bicycle or roller skates or suchlike as well. Once I turned seven, I was the only kid in the house: it was just us three, my parents and me. So I never experienced that big festive crazy present-unwrapping frenzy that my friend Kathi was reminiscing about the other day, with her three brothers and a father who adored Christmas.
|My mother grew poinsettia in her backyard;|
it's a favorite Christmas memory for me
That's no doubt why I've always enjoyed Christmas well enough, but it's never been a big deal for me.
|A rainy but festive Christmas in Costa Rica|
As an adult, although this isn't strictly a "tradition," I do enjoy playing Handel's Messiah on Christmas Day. Just now, in fact, I put on one of the several copies we own (mostly thanks to my brother: he's got excellent taste in classical music and enjoys sharing his discoveries). David is preparing a meaty lasagne. We're sipping a lovely pinot. I need nothing more than this to feel rich and grateful.