With the holidays upon us, we've launched into our yearly rituals: moving sweaters down from the top of the closet, restocking the cocoa inventory and filling the wine rack with heavy reds. All that's left is to stick some lights on the rosemary bush, and we'll be ready for the merriment.
But I can hear you out there, you Decorators. You obsessive Seasonalists. You're in your attics and your basements, handling Rubbermaid boxes marked "Ornaments," unfurling glittered, cotton snowdrifts to lay foundation for, ugh, your holiday collectibles.
Only months ago, you manhandled that family of dried-apple-core-faced choristers back into its crate. You caged the plaid and velvet teddy bears for their long summer's rest and interred in mothballs your 26 alphabetized needlepoint stockings. Yet now you free them to march across your mantle until New Year's Day, when you must once again wrestle them to bubble-wrapped confinement.
When I come to your holiday-staged houses, I can't help but wonder how and why you amassed these collections? Did you at age five, 14 or 20, decide, "Behold, I will collect, and the objects of my accrual will be dreidels! No, snow globes! No, wait, kinaras!"? And from then on did you take your summer-job wages and birthday checks to cinnamon-scented Hallmark stores to accumulate your displays? Did you actually request these items in lieu of other functional gifts like Rollerblades and paint guns? Or were they foisted upon you and you failed to shake the shackles of your mother's/uncle's/godmother's mania for holiday pigs/clocks/wassail cups? Now, as adults, do you continue to receive papier maché livestock for your creche, instead of things you could enjoy all year, like an English boxwood or a new Henckel?
Unsurprisingly, I do not collect. I barely decorate. Our mantle, banister and lawn glide unadorned through the holidays. But as my child's first sentient interfaith holiday season approaches, I begin to wonder: why don't I feel the urge to assemble the cast of A Christmas Carol, amid a forest of antique menorahs, above my fireplace?
There are as many explanations as there are figurines in a Hummel Christmas village. There is the onus of selecting a single totem kitsch. And the impossibility of building a complete set of anything from a single T.J. Maxx. Obviously, there's the dread of packing it all up again. And the fear of failure, knowing that I will never find every train, gnome or Santa frog. Conversely, there's the fear of success: if I set my sights low, on some finite clusterlike the 12 days of Christmas depicted in Bakeliteand I actually collect them all, then what? Start afresh with Holiday Sponge Bob? For these reasons, I stick with an ad hoc design scheme: gift-wrap strewn throughout the house, hot chocolate stains and a construction-paper wreath made by tiny hands dipped in green paint and taped to the refrigerator.
Call me a Grinch, but at least I'm honest with myself. Meanwhile, as I write this, there are 37,232 of you quietly trying to hawk items on eBay under "CollectiblesHoliday Seasonal." Under pseudonyms like JunkMonger615, you are reaching out to unload your cloisonné lords a-leaping, lacquered peppermint baskets and anything by Christopher Radko. Meanwhile, your offline brethren are hosting garage sales to liquidate miles of tangled twinkle lights and herds of tiny reindeer, with, on average, 1.3 good antlers per beast.
This rampant short-selling of seasonal stuff points to a silent majority of you yearning to break out. When I ask you about your decorating habits, you hint as much. You say you'd quit, but you don't want to be the only one in the neighborhood who doesn't look festive. You got the "O, Tannenbaum" china and the "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" table runner from your in-laws. Or, there's really no good place to store a life-sized Frosty, except beside the mailbox.
To you who secretly hate your decorations and collections, I say let 'em go. Ship 'em off to the first Pay Pal who bites, no reserve price necessary. Dance nekkid in the freed-up closet space. Snuff your scented candle collection and tell Snow White's dwarves the diorama isn't happening this December. "Back in the box, Dopey! Mama ain't Martha this year!"
But to those of you who truly love your collectibles, who have looked all year for just the right 2004 commemorative Mary Engelbreit ornament, to you, in your candy cane sweater, who would look at me and say, "But what about tradition?" To you, I say "Deck the halls!" Bring on the cross-stitched nativity scene. Conscript your army of nutcrackers. And please, make your illuminated yard display extra big so we can drive by and gawk at it again this year. After all, we have our traditions, too.
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