I offer the following true statement with honesty, humility, and the hope that I will not be pelted with sugar plums and pieces of fruitcake.
I do not decorate for Christmas.
No fragrant, bow-bedecked, evergreen wreath decorates my door. There are no Christmas cards gaily displayed on wires across my windows. No glitter-washed, candy cane candles on my coffee table. No red and green "Ho Ho Ho" banners hanging on my walls.
My front yard, my roof, and my fireplace are devoid of reindeer/Santas/elves, snowmen, and Nativity scenes.
I do not – gasp! – have a Christmas tree.
A couple of strings of red and gold lights festoon my house but they're actually the remnants of a long ago birthday bash.
Yes, on top of everything, I am a serial Christmas light offender.
My husband Marty is Jewish but he's not the reason that I don't deck the halls. Even before I got married, my holiday ho ho ho consisted of a few battered Christmas balls hung on a scraggly ficus tree.
Once, I set out a bowl of miniature candy can. Then there was my year-long love affair with Christmas Cheer room spray, which lasted until the nozzle clogged.
After my wedding, I gave up all pretense of decorating with a huge sigh of relief.
Don't get me wrong. I love the holidays. For years, I teared up as tiny voices trilled Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa songs at Mount Washington Elementary School. The Self-Realization Fellowship's Open Houses have been oases of calm in an always hectic season. Highland Park's home town Christmas parade gladdens my heart. I even get chills when I hear The Little Drummer Boy, which was recently featured on a list of the Ten Worst Christmas Carols.
It's not that I didn't have Christmas decorating role models. My mother created sparkling, elegant Christmas displays year after year. Her mother crafted felt stockings for our entire family. My paternal grandmother's house was redolent with the aroma of baking cookies, the fragrance of massed flowers and greenery, and the scent of spiced candles.
My sisters channel Town and Country, Pottery Barn, and Anthropologie for their holiday decor. They churn out pies, persimmon cookies, and crocheted/origami'ed/decoupaged ornaments with elf-like aplomb.
No, the problem is not a dearth of holiday heritage.
With me, the Christmas decorating gene skipped a generation. I can make mulled cider and stick cloves in an orange but that's the extent of my talents. I don't have the eye, I don't have the skill, and I'm befuddled by the attempt.
I'm not a Grinch. I love other people's winter wonderlands: the sparkling lights, the poinsettias, the stockings hung by the fire with care. And even though my tree trimming efforts were always more A Charlie Brown Christmas than A Christmas Story, I love every kind of Christmas tree, whether sleek and sophisticated or overhung with ornaments.
I love tinsel and tiny lights, baubles and bows, cranberry strings and construction paper chains, popcorn balls and Popsicle stick stars. I love heirloom hand-me-downs, hand-crafted one-of-a-kinds and last year's J.C. Penny bargains.
The presents under the tree have varying degrees of staying power. The desperately desired Day-Glo T-shirt, the must-have toy du jour, the Best! Boots! Ever! eventually end up at the back of the closet or in the Goodwill bag.
The ornaments on the tree above, though, are a constant. They remind us of past Christmases shared, those we love, those who are distant, those we hold in the memory of our hearts: our families, our friends, our neighbors, our community.
To the Christmas trees of Mount Washington and those who delight in decorating them, I salute you. Your lights brighten my world.
In the spirit of The Little Drummer Boy, I humbly offer a mug of mulled cider and a clove-stuck orange.
Pa rum pum pum pum.