by Rick Jones, Husband of the Minister's Wife
It's like the Beatles said: “Christmas time again is here – ain't been 'round since late last year”. And with this holiday comes unique annual traditions. Sometimes the joyful holiday spirit is preserved only because the word”traditions” exists. Otherwise, I'd call these events “hassles”, “complications”, and “hindrances”. For example:
The Hauling of the Holiday Tubs: Lois has accumulated enough Christmas decorations to adorn three trees and two homes. These items are stored in a shed in eight large plastic tubs, each weighing as much as Santa's reindeer, Donner. And Donner is the chubby one. Every tub must be brought from the shed into the house, which also means rearranging other tubs containing decorations for other seasonal events. This is followed by the Detouring Around the Christmas Tubs ritual during the decorating process. I'm sure there is a good reason for the varying locations of the tubs, but it always seems to be related to where I plan to walk next. And since we can't have all those ugly tubs cluttering the house during the holiday season, there's the Returning of the Tubs to the Shed Knowing Full Well They'll Be Hauled Out Again in About a Month. Which is why there's another tradition:
The Cursing of the Tubs
The Festooning of the Hand Rails: Garland and bows are necessary for this tradition, which half-covers the hand rails of the outside steps during a season in which the steps are often icy. This makes entering and leaving the home much more exciting, and gives our guests who may have less than Olympic-class agility something festive to look at as they speed-dial their lawyers while lying at the base of the steps. Closely related is The Cursing of the Garland, observed at least twice a day during the season, as I use the outside steps.
The Cursing of the Lights: A nearly universal Christmas tradition observed by people who have used an old-fashioned strand of lights – the kind that had 100 light bulbs, none of which would shine if just one went bad. So we had to take a spare bulb and switch it with each light in the strand, seeking the bad one, which was usually about five spaces from whichever end one did not start with. Ironically, this cursing was accompanied by a prayer: “Dear Lord, have mercy. Please grant that only one bulb has gone bad. I further beseech Thee that the spare bulb I'm using to test this strand is not itself burned out.”
And, until we switched to an artificial tree, we observed the ABCs of Christmas trees.
A: The Acquisition of the Tree: After locating the bungee cords and saw in our unheated garage while my hands froze, we drove to a tree farm where we walked the rows while my feet froze, and debated which tree to buy while my face froze. Then I had to crawl under the tree and saw through the trunk while my hands, feet, and face froze a bit more. Then I secured the tree to the roof of the car to slowly and nervously drive home. Acquisition also involves getting the tree into the living room. As it was squeezed through the doorway, so many pine needles flew off that I was sure the tree would be bare by the time we set it up, but no, it had plenty more, which would fall on a daily basis.
B: The Balancing of the Tree: That expensive tree stand never seemed as stable as advertised, and it was my duty to produce a straight-standing tree by crawling beneath the tree among the incredibly sharp pine needles and positioning thin boards under one portion or another of the stand, being sure to hide them under the tree skirt. I then had to anchor the tree with thick string to the base of the window frame to keep it from falling. This was a necessity when we had  a big dog which could shift furniture with a swipe of its tail and/or  a curious cat that knew how to climb trees and was attracted by shiny objects. And if the cat had been declawed, it didn't matter – it would just take a running start, and leap.
C: Then, thinking of the “fun” I've already had with the tree, and “looking forward” to the adventure of getting that tree out of the house on New Year's Day, at which time every pine needle left would do its best to hurl itself into unseen locations, to venture forth and afflict my feet for months to come, there was the “C” – yes, you guessed it, The Cursing of the Tree.
The Filching of the Cookies: This one was actually enjoyable for me, but a pain for Lois. She doesn't mind me eating and appreciating a sizeable number of the exponentially larger number of cookies she bakes. But I have the uncanny ability to eat whichever kind of cookie she had planned to take to a dinner or pack up as a gift. Unfortunately, the onset of diabetes has forced me to cut back on this tradition substantially. This has led to a more recent tradition: The Very Sad Looking at and Longing for Christmas Cookies.