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The Spiker Gazette
Oxford, WVVolume  10Issue 12  December 2016
In this Issue:Christmas Creep
Family Christmas Cards and Photos


They Call it "Christmas Creep"

Written by Bobbi Spiker Conley


     Walk into almost any store after Labor Day and you’ll soon hear someone say, “Look! They’ve set up their Christmas displays and it’s not even Halloween yet.” (Or something like that, anyway.) And they say it with either considerable delight (hand-clap) or slight smugness (eye-roll.) You see, there are polls that “prove” most consumers dislike seeing in-store decorations before November. The problem with the polls is that what people say and what they do, often differ.

     My husband embraces the contradiction by dutifully complaining that “Christmas at Lowes comes earlier every year,” mere seconds before grabbing several new strands of holiday lights from the shelves. Those lights will be installed on our house before Thanksgiving. (“They just won’t be turned on until then,” he justifies with a grin.)

     Society has now labeled it “Christmas Creep,” snorting their disgust at how commercialized the season has become. But I would remind you that the holiday isn't coming any earlier today than it did in my childhood. Back then, Christmas rushed in as early as August. By postal mail. From Sears. And JC Penney. And for some, by Montgomery Ward. Yes, Virginia. The Christmas season always began with the arrival of the Christmas Wish Book catalogs.    


    In the days before Toys “R” Us and multiple Superstores, these books enticed us with the largest array of toys we had ever seen at one time or in one place. Oh, sure, they also contained “all manner of merchandise suitable for gift-giving” (interpreted as “a bunch of boring stuff for adults,”) but it was the toy section in the back of the catalogs that was so special. As far as we were concerned, if a toy wasn’t shown in the catalogs, well, it simply did not exist. And we weren’t the only ones that felt that way; for generations of American children, these catalogs were as traditional to the season as a nativity or a holiday tree.

     Speaking of trees…that’s one thing about Christmas that never came early in our house. While most of our friends set their trees up the day after Thanksgiving, Daddy wouldn’t let us have our tree until the week before Christmas. That’s because we had a “live” tree. And it’s because our father was obsessed with safety.

     One or more of us kids would go with Daddy to point out THE perfect pine. The choice was ours. It could be fat or skinny. It could be short- or long-needled. It could have gaping spaces on one side if that’s what we wanted. What it could not be was unhealthy. Or overly crooked. Or tall. It really could not be tall. (Our ceilings were low but my favorite tree topper was high. Sorry, Dad.)

     He insisted on personally hand-cutting the tree using his own (meticulously cleaned) saw on THE DAY he would bring it into the house. And once he got home, he gave the butt end a final tap on the ground to shake out any remaining brown needles (all pines drop a portion of their oldest needles in the fall) then sliced a bit more off the trunk to remove the sappy layer before putting it in the tree stand.  

     Mother joined us in the living room to “ooh” and “aah,” proclaiming it the prettiest tree she had “ever laid eyes on.” She then spent the next half hour directing where to set it up. “Good on four sides goes at front window.” “Short and really, really fat goes at side window.” “Huge bare spot? Back corner.”

     Once she was satisfied, Dad made some minor adjustments. “Too close to fireplace.” “Would require too many extension cords.” “The heater will dry it out too fast.” And finally, “This spot is perfect for this tree.” Time to anchor it to the wall because everyone knows that trees are a tipping hazard.

     Fill the stand with at least a gallon of water, add an aspirin, check the water level twice daily, refill as necessary, and under no circumstances allow the water to get too low. If the base of the tree dries out, the resin will form over the cut end and the tree will not be able to absorb water. Oh…and do not put presents under the tree until Christmas Eve because you may not be able to check or refill the water.

     Every day Daddy would squeeze the needles checking for dryness. And every day he would check the water level in the stand (yes, even though he told us to do that) because everyone knows that “live” trees are a fire hazard.

     Guess what he did with that tree the day after Christmas?

     And guess what could be found still hanging from the branches after he dragged it from the house? Lots of tiny silver threads. The ones we just could not get off when we undecorated the tree. You know what I’m talking about. Tinsel. Icicles. Lead tinsel icicles.

     When decorating, there was an order to things. First was to set the turn-table spinning with some lively Christmas music. My favorite album was 1968's "The Great Songs of Christmas." It was the eighth in a series of annual holiday greetings presented by -- get this -- GoodYear. Honest to goodness!

     Daddy strung the lights. Then mother draped the Tinsel (we never called it “garland.”) And by the time my sister, Melanie, and I were old enough to assist, we were responsible for hanging the ornaments (many were vintage, passed down from our grandparents.)

     Then the finale.

     Securely wrapped around thin sheets of cardboard were narrow slivers of silvery, shiny “icicles.” We removed a handful, being very careful not to tangle or tear them, then freed a solitary strand to drape it over the end of a single branch. One icicle at a time. Mother stressed it repeatedly. One. At. A. Time. We set hundreds of heavy-hanging icicles until the tree glistened like a frozen waterfall.

     We were just as careful when removing it, threading it back over the cardboard holder, storing it safely away to be reused again. Unfortunately, no matter how gentle we were, the icicles never looked quite as good when “recycled.” After years of reuse, they became creased and puckered and unable to reflect the light in quite the same way. Eventually we’d purchase replacements. That is, up until 1972. Because everyone knows (well, now they know) that lead is a health hazard.



      Many of our treasured vintage decorations met a similar fate – broken, retired, discarded – like the old serial light sets, and the electric “candles,” and the painted bulbs. Why? Because everyone knows those things are electrical hazards. Of course.

     As for the Christmas Wish Books? They were by no means hazardous but they, too, eventually disappeared. And that's okay. Because the truth is, my greatest wish has already come true in Jesus Christ; Christmas is a time for celebrating the gift that we've already been given.  

Merry Christmas.





Family Christmas cards and photos...