Monday, December 07, 2009

‘Tis the Season

Patty here…

I love Christmas. As a child, I remember gazing out the window on Christmas Eve with my head resting on my hands, willing Mother Nature to drop a fleecy blanket of white on our front lawn to cushion Santa's landing.

Our family decorated the tree with handmade ornaments: perfectly cracked walnut shells glued together and hung with a satin ribbon and popcorn on a string. One year the owner of our local market gave my sister and me a paper fireplace left over from a holiday display. Every Christmas after that, we set it up in the bedroom we shared. We rolled old newspapers and fastened them with rubber bands so they looked like logs. Then we colored the paper with red, orange, and yellow Crayolas to look like fire. After the fireplace was “lit,” we hung our stockings, which were not made of brocade and glitter and did not have our names embroidered on them in gold thread. They were socks borrowed from my father’s drawer.

Our house was redolent with cinnamon, as my mother cooked applesauce on the stove, and I listened to the latest installment of the serialized radio adventure featuring Judy and Jimmy Barton and “The Cinnamon Bear,” searching for the silver star that had gone missing from atop their Christmas tree.

As an adult, I have always tried to create my own form of holiday magic. I decorate my tree with ornaments I’ve collected from friends, family, and on my travels. I also make decorations, like this snowman.

And this Santa.

Last year the season swept in like a blustery Santa Ana wind and the thought of lugging tons of ornaments from the storage unit just for a few days seemed less magic and more hassle. So I left Christmas moldering in boxes in Marina del Rey.

Once I made the decision, a malaise washed over me that hung on throughout the season. This year as a palliative, I began decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. As I placed the ornaments on the tree, I understood why I had felt so compressed during the previous season. My memories were musty and needed airing.

I missed looking at the yarn angel my Auntie Violet made for me when I was a child. I was glad to see it again because she just passed away a few days before Thanksgiving.

After my beloved Dottie died, I received a package in the mail from the vet. Inside was this Christmas ornament, a Westie with angel wings. Looking at it still breaks my heart but it also lifts my spirits remembering her joie de vivre and her indomitable spirit.

My dear friend Tom McGinn gave me this bear several years ago at one of my book signings.

As our longtime Naked Readers know, Tom passed away in September of 2008. I think about him often but especially this time of year.

I don’t need the calories, but this holiday season I’m going to make Doris’ pinwheel cookies and plum pudding topped with Gladys’ rum sauce because it’s tradition and my way of honoring their memories. I’m also going to make Marianne’s fruitcake and maybe some Dark ‘n Stormies to toast my fellow Nakeds because for me, part of Christmas is remembering those we love and sometimes those we’ve lost.

What is the holiday decoration or tradition that you can't live without?

Merry Monday!


  1. Ho ho ho, Patty!

    I stopped putting up a tree a few years ago - I just didn't feel like I had the time, and was really tired of the commercialism that seemed to have gobbled up the holiday.

    Interestingly, my Christmas spirit seems to have come slowly creeping back, and I've put up a few decorations this year. Who knows, maybe I'll even get a tree...

    As to traditions, I love Christmas music, it's playing right now in the background. And I always use my Christmas china at this time of year - I have a collection that my mother and grandmother started for me, and using it always brings back fond memories.

    Happy holidays!

  2. What a lovely reminder (and photo) of Santa Tom!

    The Christmas stockings were the "must have" decorations for me. My mom had gone to the mall to get stockings for us all -- yes, with our names in glitter. "What year do you want me to put on them?" the mall-elf asked, assuming that each would have a child's birth year.

    "Why, 1961, of course!" my mother replied, totally mystified that the man wouldn't know what year it was.

    As a result we looked like quintuplets: Bill, Lee, Jim, Louise, Robert -- all 1961.

  3. What a great post, Patty. So many memories. We had tiny French horn decorations. At bedtime, my brother, sister and I each faced the North Pole and blew the (silent) horn, so Santa would know we were ready for him to visit. Who knew Santa, like dogs, could hear a silent whistle, but he always did.

    Christmas Eve has always been my favorite. As we got older, my mom who was a nurse would volunteer to work Christmas day so that moms with 'wee ones' could be home with them. That simple gesture did two things. It taught me more about giving to others than any gift could, and it taught me that Christmas was whatever, and whenever you made it with the ones you love.

    Merry Christmas,

  4. I put up a tree and I have favorite ornaments (a tiny sled named Rosebud is one) but it's not the decorations or the food or even the Phil Spector Christmas album that I would miss.

    It's finding 3 or 4 books for my daughter that I know she'll read and enjoy. It's the only chance I get to surprise her with choices that are all mine, and not ones she's requested.

    I've been doing this for more than a decade and if I've picked a stinker or two, she's been kind enough not to let the old man know.

  5. Every year my mom got us new ornaments and marked them down on a piece of paper with the year received. When we all moved out, our ornament boxes went with us. I still have my old box and all my childhood ornaments, my favorite being the tin carousel horse covered in gold glitter. He's a little less glittery now, but he still means a lot. And he's on the tree right now.

    When we had our first Christmas with our daughter, I started the tradition for her, so she'll have her own box of ornaments when she moves out and has her own tree.

    (I never thought I'd be able to have a fake tree, but we bought one four years ago and it was the best decision we ever made. No needles, no cats climbing the trunk, no stomping around in 20 degree weather to choose one with a crooked we just drag that sucker up from the basement and voila! We have a tree!)

  6. OOOOOOh, Rae, I forgot about the Christmas glasses and dishes from yon years of yore. Thanks for reminding me.

    Louise, that's a hilarious story about your mom. It sounds so like the way you've described her.

    Sweet story, Carson. Thanks for sharing.

    David, what wonderful sharing moments with your daughter. Priceless.

    Karen, your mom sounds really really organized. I inherited some ornaments from my grandmother but it was just by chance that I ended up with them.

  7. I am not Catholic, but I've gone to a few midnight Masses on Christmas Eve. (There's a woman to blame). I love "Ave Maria" sung by a good choir.

    Also, I love egg nog. However, Gelson's is currently charging $6.99 for a QUART. Plus $1.25 for the bottle deposit.

    Patty, please do something about this. A lawsuit, perhaps.

  8. Holy cow! Maybe we can get James O to make a few arrests. That's criminal! However, ff you knew how many calories were in eggnog you might reconsider your love affair.

  9. James O. Born12/07/2009 5:43 PM

    When I was six I bought a star with glitter glued on it for my mom. She also had it on the tree. Now we put it on our tree.

    I have fond memories of every Christmas, even without snow or cold.

    I remember swimming on a couple of Christmases.


  10. I love that sort of tradition. I love the cold weather but only to visit every once in a while.

  11. Patty, what a lovely post - it really touched my heart. Some years ago my brother bought me a large fluffy gorilla toy dressed in a Santa outfit - yep, his idea of a joke. But he's part of my Christmas now, and I wouldn't be without him. I called him Fred.

  12. Our J, I must confess that this year I bought a stuffed pig named Arnold. He snores and talks pig nonsense in his sleep. I put a big red bow around his neck but next year I'm going to knit him a Christmas sweater. Sheesh!

  13. wonderful post, patty. it made me feel all christmasy again.

    we started christmas early this year. my brother and his wife, who usually stay with us over the holiday, came early this year. so we had our party last weekend. this morning they went back to berlin to be with his aging mother in law and i already miss him.

    as he is only 11 months older than i am, we are very close and this will only be my third christmas without him. so i was sad to see him go this morning but your post cheered me up and lifted my spirits again. thank you, patty


  14. I cut the tree the day before Christmas Eve. I bring it in the next morning and dress it with old-fashioned homemade candle holders of wire, the kind you need to use an apple as counterweight to keep the candle up-right. The only decorations besides the candles and apples are gingerbread figures.

  15. Sybille, it's always difficult to be separated from our loved ones during the holidays but your brother's mum-in-law must be thrilled to have him near.

    Margaretha, I'm trying but failing to imagine how the whole apple/candle balancing act works. I have some clip-on candle holders for my tree that came from Denmark but I've never used them because I'm afraid I might set the house on fire! And those gingerbread decorations sound delicious.

  16. Patty,
    There are two photos of a candle and apple - neither is very good, but I think it will give you an idea. The one with English text is here and one with Swedish text here

  17. Lovely blogs, Margaretha, but I didn't find the apple/candle pics. What day were they posted on? In the meantime, Merry Jul.

  18. Patty,
    On the Swedish blog ( it is the third picture from the top, onsdag 24 december 2008, Julafton.
    And on måndag 22 december 2008, Apples & bread ( it is the first picture.
    God jul!

  19. Ah, I see now. Very cool.