Monday, December 11, 2006

The Hassles and Magic of Christmas

Doing Christmas tree lights is an OCD perfectionist's worst nightmare. Ever since I was a kid I would feel tense and uncomfortable as I watched my older sisters and mother getting the lights up before we could start decorating the tree. When I lived alone in the States I only had a small tree because I would leave for vacation so early in December that it didn't really matter. So I never had to worry about the lights myself. Last year in London was the first time I ever had a medium-sized tree of my own to decorate in my flat. But I actually found a tree in Cargo Homestore that came with the lights pre-attached to it, which was perfect because it meant I wouldn't have to worry about doing the lights myself. Just put the tree together, plug it in, and - hey presto! - the lights would come on, all perfectly placed around the tree. It was an OCD's dream come true.

But alas, nothing gold can stay. This year I unpacked my Christmas tree, put the whole thing together, plugged it in, and tragedy struck. Two whole rows of lights weren't working. I tried playing electrician for about an hour but all I did was end up turning off one more whole row of lights. Finally, I gave up. I decided I would have to remove the pre-sets, buy a new string of lights, and just do my best.

Well, removing the lights turned out to be much more of a hassle than I'd bargained for. Imagine 200 twinkle lights, each and every one attached to the branches of the tree with two of those little green clips you see on my coffee table in the picture. What you see here is nothing - there were hundreds of those little clips by the time I was done. I keep finding random ones scattered around my flat. Anyway, it took me about two hours, lots of frustration, and a few scratches on my hands to get them all off.

Then the next day I bought a new set of lights and decided that I could do this - how hard could it be? Holy crap. First of all, it wasn't just a simple string of lights - one row of wire with lights attached. No, the thing was split into two parallel rows - imagine one long row, folded in half, with the two ends meeting together at the plug. That's what it was like. How on earth do you string those around a tree? I'd only ever watched my sisters and Mom doing the single row one when I was a kid (although they had to use two full strings to cover our whole tree, which was always huge because we'd buy a real one).

Suffice it to say, it took me ages. I won't go into the details because only those of you with OCD will understand - the rest will just think I'm nuts. I finally managed to get the string all around the tree after about two hours (with a 20 minute break in between). Then of course, it was another hour as I sat on the couch and analyzed the distribution of the lights and kept fine-tuning it.

I hate this disease.

Anyway, once that was done, I finally got to decorate it. It felt kind of pathetic doing it all alone. I even downloaded some of the Christmas songs we used to listen to when we were kids while decorating the tree (OK OK, I'll admit it, it was the Boney M. Christmas album). But once it was done, I made myself a mug of hot chocolate, lit up some candles, played some Bach fugues, and I felt warm and peaceful. Well worth the hassle. As I sat there looking at the tree I remembered my lovely mother. She always added the finishing touch to the tree when we were done - the tinsle. My mother made Christmas - and life - magical, and even though she is no longer with us to celebrate it, the magic she brought to it is still inside me and my sisters and Dad. Nothing in life has ever beat that feeling of Christmas morning when we were kids - that absolute pure family joy. So, even though I'm 27, Christmas will always make me feel like a kid again.

I'm having some friends over on Wednesday evening for some warm Christmassy drinks which I cannot describe here, gingerbread men, a chocolate yule log cake, and I'm tempted to get mince pies because I've never had them and just cannot possibly imagine what they're like. Everyone will go home with a candy cane off the tree. I love this season.

(If anyone points out the gap in lights on the bottom left part of the tree in this picture, I'll deck you. Pun intended. Get it, get it? Deck the halls? Anyway, it only looks that way in the picture. It's fine in real life...Raine.)


  • Yes - the gap stressed me out.

    Your ordeal is nothing. I do not want to talk about mine - suffice it to say I had to take down lights and string new ones up three times. I got angry. I cried. I had hissy fits. I am ok now.

    We decorated our gorgeous huge tree and it looks fab... and yes, I sit in front of it, get up, adjust an ornament, go back, and repeat many times. It's ok. Everyone has their issues :)

    As for the States: "So I never had to worry about the lights myself." I did them there, too!

    And finally and most importantly... This season is so important to me - to us as a family... As you said, how can it not be after the magic we all experienced from Mom. Words fail me...

    Come home already! I got your stocking stuffers today! All the way from the U.S.!

    I want to have a big Christmas party... Will wait for you to get here.

    By Blogger Raine, at 12/11/2006 7:29 pm  

  • You cried? OK, I'm not that bad. I'm inclined to think that the stress we feel about the tree lights is really just a manifestation of the routine stress and pressures of our daily (professional/academic) lives. As OCD perfectionists, we like everything to be, well, perfect. And life is hardly that. So we take it out on the tree. See, I'm trying to justify our actions here (so people don't think we're nuts). But when I think about it, doing the lights of the tree was more stressful and anxiety-inducing than even writing my MA dissertation was! So maybe it's not a matter of taking things out on the tree - maybe we're just sick.

    "I sit in front of it, get up, adjust an ornament, go back, and repeat many times." Yes. Yes.

    As for the magic of our childhood Christmases, what can I say? You know. You were there. Wonderland.

    Your stockings ROCK this year! Well, at least I hope you like them! :)

    Yes, yes, have a big Christmas party! Maybe we can do it on Christmas Eve? At your place. Fun! I'd rather have a big Christmas party and a chill New Years at chalet or something, rather than a big New Years. I think New Years is the stupidest day/holiday of the year.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 12/11/2006 10:35 pm  

  • God... you know you're a grad student if you look at pictures posted on someone's blog and you try to see if you can recognize any of the book spines in the background.

    By Anonymous Boss, at 12/15/2006 9:04 am  

  • Boss: Hahaha! And did you? I'm sure you recognized some of the spines in the top row. Cleveland. The Hodgson trilogy. The Hourani/Khoury/Philips volume. Lapidus. :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 12/15/2006 1:50 pm  

  • This tree sucks!

    hehe no its nice :)
    Mine is made out of pepsi, coke, 7up and fanta cans, just cans.
    Its not done yet, im still thinking for an alternative light methode.

    Dunno if im gonna finish it anyway..

    Petit Papa Noël Quand tu descendras du ciel Avec des jouets par milliers n'oublie pas mon petit soulier :)


    By Anonymous P, at 12/17/2006 12:58 pm  

  • Mon petit soulier sounds like mon petit ecolier (well, kind of). :) Tee hee hee. I want I want! Put some in my stocking.

    The lights would look cool bouncing off the cans. You're insane though. Are they big cans or small ones? You have to show me now that I'm here.

    Waaaiiiii the giggle! :-x

    By Blogger Kleio, at 12/17/2006 2:33 pm  

  • my huge tree seems to be tilting a bit forward. can you come fix it for me? or just check that it actually IS tilting? i'm sure you and raine will see the tilt while noone else on the planet will. yours looks great though. i want you to describe the drinks you had! so mysterious!! YOUR STOCKING STUFFERS HAVE ARRIVED!!

    By Anonymous red tinsel, at 12/22/2006 10:40 am  

  • red tinsle: I like the holiday twist to your comment name! Yes, I will come check on your tree. If I'm not mistaken, your sickness in that area is not as bad as mine and Raine's.

    As for what I served, well let's just say it was mulled! ;) My whole flat smelled of cinnamon and nutmeg. For those not interested in that, I also offered Christmas tea and hot chocolate. And a couple of guys who were not as into the warm Christmas beverage thing brought beer. So un-Christmassy but oh well!

    OK, the stocking stuffers arrived, but have the rest of the gifts?!?!


    By Blogger Kleio, at 12/23/2006 2:41 am  

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