In the nearly eleven years that I've been married, I've taken to decorating my Christmas tree in stages, which is why it's been in my living room since Sunday, but is still not finished.
The first stage is just bringing it in the house. As our tree is plastic, this isn't terribly difficult. It just means five minutes of gyrating through the garage, and three minutes of work with a steak knife, cutting off last year's tape.
Then, we put it together, and plug it in. Because Fuzzy hates stringing lights on trees, and I hate untangling them at the end of the holidays, we invested in a pre-lit tree last year, and I'm still in love with it. Just as other people do with their cut trees, we let ours 'rest' overnight, with just the lights, before any ornaments are put on.
After the resting stage, we begin with the ornaments. When I was little, my mother and I would sit together, and open them all, and as each ornament went on the tree, we would talk about it – where it came from (a gift, a trip we took, etc.), and what it means – most of my ornaments represent some facet of my personality, and I've tried to incorporate Fuzzy into them as well. A tiny ballerina came from my very first Christmas present EVER, for example, and an angel sitting on a crescent moon is a piece from the mobile that hung over my crib when I was a baby.
As I've grown older, I've acquired enough ornaments to fill three plastic totes, including the sun and solar system, from Jeremy a couple years ago, a carousel frog and carousel lion from my aunt, last year, and the glass “rubber ducky” in a Santa hat that I added this year, along with a mermaid, and two seahorses, all in glass as well. I love the glass ones, but I also collect Santa Claus ornaments, and most of those are wooden.
Three totes worth is quite a lot of ornaments, almost too many for our seven-foot tree, but I can't bear to part with any, because they all have meaning. Even the little wooden basketball players are important, as they remind me of a Christmas spent with my grandparents, when my mother and I had to replace all their ornaments, because most had been dispersed among their children.
When the ornaments are all on the tree, with the back of the tree holding those that are out of favor for one reason or another, I let it rest again, and just enjoy the effect. It's amazing how little figurines on strings combine with twinkle lights to turn a plastic tree into something magical.
Finally, I wrap the tree skirt around the base, and pile presents underneath, or, if there's room, set up a train around the base (I've loved trains since I was a little girl, building model railroads with my grandfather, who graciously let me wear his engineer hat.) I don't use tinsel, not because I don't like it – it's quite pretty in small doses – but because my Uncle Merrell used to be in charge of hanging the tinsel on the family tree, and the year he died, my mother and I left it off our tree as a memorial, and somehow, that decision became a tradition. With the dogs, it's probably better that we don't use the stuff, anyway.
The tree is finished at that point, and stays up til epiphany, or the weekend closest to it, because I like to have the lights and color through New Year's. The house, however, remains decorated for winter, at least through the beginning of February.