Decades of holiday decorations

Growing up on the south side of Chicago in the early 1960’s, for my Dad, it was the Christmas Tree. The Christmas tree that was real. Not the fake trees that were first metal, silver and generally had coordinated ball ornaments that were all the same.  The metal tree also rotated in a stand to music with floor lights. My father had to have an 8ft real tree with over 600 colored bulb lights where two lights of the same color were never together, bubble lights which were effectively scattered as well as intricate ornaments  placed with care on each branch to compliment the space. Tinsel was hung one string at a time. And that was it…sometimes he would put colored lights to frame his creation around the front window facing the street.  The tree took hours, sometimes days to complete but it was his masterpiece and still remembered by many today.

After Dad passed away , I tried to carry on the tradition in the 1970’s for my Mother. She switched to a fake, green tree with the new Italian lights and garland while living in Dolton.

And then during the 1980’s and 1990’s, Christmas became more involved with my own little ones and the art of decorating traveled outdoors. I also worked for Christmas Around the World part-time and still have the manger scene today. Now, it wasn’t about just the Christmas tree, though we did have a perfect cathedral ceiling foyer to show off our large green, fake tree. It was about the entire house even changing out the art work to celebrate the holiday. It was about stringing lights to frame the garage and wrapping the garage with ribbon.

And the new millennium came and it was still about Christmas trees, though now we had switched to white lights and lace lights trimmed the porch and frame.  The fake tree finally fell apart and still in the same house with the cathedral ceiling all these years, we are back to a real tree from Home Depot and unfortunately, not quite as large. Though the indoor decorations have remained, the outdoor lights have broken, wreaths have withered, faded, a wooden replica of Rudolph has lost its leg and Santa flying his sleigh with his plastic reindeer have seen much better days.

As for this year specifically, I have had help, we have scaled back as far as outdoor decorations though the weather in Chicago has been unseasonably warm.  A deck decorated in lights from last year still works and flower pots from summer are left in their spots filled now with fake poinsettia leaves and maybe other items from the dollar store.  An easy fix.

It is a little sad for me as I leave for work everyday and think …..hmmm….maybe today when I come home, I will add a few more decorations outside. Though I haven’t yet.

But when I do leave in the morning, it is strange that the sign of hope by my driveway seems to be especially illuminated with light from the sun, sky or the spirit world. Every morning it gives off an unusual brilliance….a special message.

Many friends and family have passed away through the decades, and maybe this is there way of telling me that it doesn’t matter what kind of costly decorations we have to celebrate the holiday season, as long as we share the sign of hope with others, there is nothing else that is more vibrant….more important! There is always hope if we truly believe.

Favorite holiday children’s books through the decades

For me in elementary school in the 1960’s, it was Brenda Brave helps Grandmother, a beautifully illustrated story I bought at one of my first book fairs. It still has the price tag, $1.00 and the code for how book fairs demonstrated their books. The story was about a little girl named Brenda Brave who lived with her Grandmother in a small cottage. Grandmother raised Brenda when she was a baby. Grandmother makes candy to sell in town but one day Grandmother falls and hurts her leg. Brenda takes over the cleaning, cooking and Christmas even selling candy. And for Christmas, Brenda gets the beautiful porcelain doll that she always wanted from Grandmother.

For many of us then, it was the most elaborate story of  The Night Before Christmas  that we had in our holiday collection as well as Frosty the Snowman that possibly had a record and A Charlie Brown Christmas. We may have received our books as gifts or a traditional purchase at the downtown Marshall Fields book floor. Krochs and Brentanos may have been another choice.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas was another favorite as well as Rudolph.  For many of my Jewish friends, to celebrate Hanukkah, I remember learning the Dreidel Song and game more so that reading Jewish stories. The Littlest Angel and The Christmas Story came in many colors and styles that shred the birth of Jesus.

As the years passed especially in the 1980’s, it was more artful creations of The Night before Christmas  as well as Madelines Christmas and The Polar Express that came in a box with a jingle bell.  Different versions of the Christmas Carol were published to compliment many levels of reading as well as celebrating Kwanzaa.

In 2015, there was a parakeet named Dreidel that taught the story of Hanukkah and collections of books that includes how to catch Santa and how to catch an elf.  Santa arrives in Illinois on Christmas Eve is always fun to read to see if your home is on his list this year.

Today,  The Night before Christmas is still the ultimate favorite with awesome illustrations to read the night before Christmas and depending on religion, The Christmas Story from Amazon or maybe Target or Walmart’s book section. Versions of the classic, A Christmas Carol ,is required reading in many schools followed by a field trip to see the play. Polar Express is complimented by the movie with Tom Hanks and How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a must read and much watched movie with Jim Carey. Maya Angelou’s Amazing Peace is a fully illustrated children’s book that is mainly poetry. The story of a treasure thought to be lost in a batch of tamales is also a great Christmas Eve read called Too Many Tamales.