One of my favorite holiday things to do is to make simple wreaths to give to my neighbors the weekend after Thanksgiving. We all put them out at the edge of our driveways. It seems to signal the beginning of the season and unites the neighborhood. While we are a fairly friendly neighborhood, we seem to be a little more joyful this time of year.
When I saw that Home Depot had started to offer a great deal on plain evergreen wreaths, with a red bow, I bought some. Now, I get them every year. It’s really the only shopping I do on Black Friday. They are cheaper than I can make myself and much better constructed. I add some more ribbon and a few waterproof decorations and presto, it’s done.
At first I just got them for myself. Our front fence runs for a length of about 330 feet, so I thought if I got some wreaths then I could space them out along the way. When I put them up, though, it was a little bit too much to look at; at least for my simple tastes. I left one on the gate and put one on the front door. The store also had 15 foot lengths of evergreen swags, so I had gotten some of those, as well. I put one around the front door and a couple draped on the railing. That seemed to be enough for my yard so I decided to share the surplus with my neighbors. It was a hit and a tradition was started. Each year they look forward to getting the wreaths, as much as I love giving them. Our neighbor at the end of the street always has a great light display. Our little row of wreaths acts sort of as a lead up to their nightly show.
It’s not that I mind Christmas and all of the decorations. I love them. I love pulling out the decorations I’ve had for years, and I make some new ones. I’m part Swedish so my celebration also includes a straw goat under the tree to guard presents, and the occasional gnome peeking out of the decorations. I make almond cake and Russian tea cookies like my Mom did. Greg and I try and get out each year to drive through the neighborhood and look at the displays. It reminds me of when I was a kid.
When I was growing up, there was a house in our home town that was the place to visit over the holidays. It started with lights a few handmade wooden “Peanuts” characters adorning the front yard. Then it gradually expanded out each year: Star Wars, Rudolph, the Grinch, and more, somehow melded seamlessly with Snoopy and the Sopwith Camel. These were designed, cut, and painted by the owner. He started planning out in January what he was going to add next holiday display.
The family served cocoa in the early years and it became a social event. There was caroling, candy canes, mistletoe, and people would dress up in various costumes and play games. Some even brought their own snacks to share.
Eventually, Mr. Marsh, the man behind the festivities, put out a decorated tip jar, not because he wanted to get compensated, but because people were wanting to pay him for his holiday hospitality, and giving them a “tradition.” After constantly stashing coins and bills in his pockets, Mr. Marsh decided to make a gingerbread house with a slot in the top. There was a sign next to it that said “Tips for Santa.” The Marsh’s always said that the tips were extra help with the electric bill and helped them budget for the next Christmas.
Even though it was a lot, it never seemed to be too much. I think it was because it became an event, a destination point. Some people just have a knack for creating special moments that people treasure forever. It’s a fond memory that is still fresh in my mind, some 40+ years later.
It’s the stories, the activities, the family and fellowship that truly make the holidays memorable for me.
I have a few more holiday memories that I’ll dust off and share this month.
I feel like celebrating, so please come and join me.