All the things there isn’t

A Christmas tree lit with white lights, with a patchwork tree skirt.
Casa di Swears Pretend Christmas Tree 2000, partially decorated

Some pretty wild things have happened this year. For 47 years, there were really real, fresh-cut-by-us (where us, over the 47 years, meant my dad and/or my gentleman associate) Christmas trees. January 5th of *this* year, we took last year’s real tree to a Goat Party. The tree was big enough that we had to cut it in half, so Mike and I each took a half, dragged them across a field, and heaved them over a fence. A bunch of baby goats and a few very preggo nannies were pretty super excited about the treats. It was a good day. Many people brought their trees to the Goat Party.

By the time we attended the Goat Party, my gentleman associate convinced me to buy a pretend Christmas Tree. We already had a giant box in the garage full of pretend tree. We chased our options around Waterloo Region – Nurseries, Home Depot, Lowes, and finally, good old Canadian Tire for the win. The tree couldn’t be too uniform – it couldn’t look like a perfectly manicured cone. It also couldn’t look like a shredded garbage bag. It also needed to be a respectable size. If I was taller than the pretend tree, no good was going to come of it.

So this week, I unpackaged that giant box (having tucked it safely down in the basement with the other seasonal decor. This year, I have a 9 feet tall tree with 940 white lights. For two whole days, I looked at the tree and frowned. The conversation went like this:

Me: I have regret in my heart.
Mike: But it’s not even December and your tree is up.
Me [Poking at a plastic branch pitifully]: Sigh. Yes. But I still have regret in my heart.
Mike: It will look better when the ornaments are on.
Me: Maybe.
Mike: Remember how good [my cousins’] tree looked?

It’s very different from the real tree that made my eyes burn for 3 weeks and my arms itch for a week from brushing against the needles hanging the ornaments. The white lights on the pretend tree are bright. Like SuperBright. Waaaaay brighter than the 6 strings of soft coloured lights daisy-chained together and shoved into the branches. The pretend tree makes the glittery ornaments sparkle like the coloured lights never did.

As I look ahead at all the things I’m not doing, it would be easy to become morose with the things that aren’t going to (or can’t) happen this year. No wandering the aisles of the One of a Kind show. No candlelight parade at Chriskindl Market in Kitchener. No holiday lunch with my colleagues. No Unsilent Night. No visit from my sister and brother-in-law for the holidays. No big giant family gatherings. So sad, right?

But you know, if I focus on the things I don’t get to have, I won’t focus on the things I do. My Christmas Tree is up earlier than I have ever had it. I don’t have to bolt up in bed wondering if I remembered to water it before I retired for the evening. I don’t have to worry that the bend in the tree’s trunk that didn’t look that big in the field will cause my tree to keel over and wreck a bunch of beloved ornaments (again).

So yeah, the light looks different this year. The Christkindl market is now a virtual Christkindl advent calendar and a Christkindl-in-a-box . The Unsilent Night is now light installations for a whole month all over Cambridge instead of just one night on one route. There are still cookiepalooza and biscotti madness. There’s virtual Nutcracker (I’m opting for the Hip Hop Nutcracker) and Handel’s Messiah. There are Hallmark movie marathons. There’s still Whampocalypse. There will always be Whampocalypse.

Find the joy in what there is, instead of the regret in what there isn’t. There are ways, friends. And maybe you’ll find new things to add to your holiday traditions that become your family favourites. Because that’s where the joy is.

And I must admit, the pretend tree does look pretty great.

Extra Credit:

Your Guide to Streaming The Nutcracker in 2020

Messiah Reimagined

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Christmas Eve and Other Stories

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