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It's the ninth day of Christmas, and I'm slowly relinquishing the decorations. I've taken down the festive greenery, dried to beyond fire-hazard stage even though it's been replaced twice in seven weeks.
Call me a girl who just doesn't want to leave the party. I washed and packed the Christmas coasters – two gingerbread men and four Santas – and then put them back out on the coffee table. I can store them later with the Christmas mugs, which I'll use for another few weeks.
Sure, the replacement glass bowl of paperwhites on shells and the amaryllis are pleasant, but they looked even more so among the cheerful Christmas red of Mom's placemats.
It's hard to be minimalist about Christmas. I read a decluttering article in a Martha Stewart magazine about a couple embarking on living together. The expert led the holiday-loving woman into believing that a few Christmas baubles in a glass bowl was enough, that the season was about friends and family, community. Please! ONE bowl? How high could it be piled?
I'm not a total packrat throughout the rest of the year. When I unpacked decorations for Halloween, I was able to get rid of five witches. Of course, at a Christmas craft fair the next day, I bought a handmade stuffed rabbit dressed in a witch costume – an Easter-bunny witch! Suitable for two occasions.
When he saw my find, my husband did not jump up and down with glee.
At Christmas, my friend Natascha gave me a new witch doll, the ugliest I've seen (Was she … bald? Fabulous!) and two new Christmas mugs. She said, worriedly, that I would tell her if I stopped collecting either, and I nodded weakly. Body language is not a lie. And if 12 Christmas mugs are good, aren't 14 even better?
With a late-November birthday, I have been amassing Christmas decorations as presents, even party favours, for decades. This Santa is from my eighth birthday party, that elf from my 14th. Dad, for many years, made ornate Christmas scenes as special gifts. On early afternoons of Christmas, we would hustle down to his workbench, a miniature West Coast Santa's workshop, for the unveiling – a crèche one year, a toile-decorated Santa sleigh another. Santa playing tennis with Rudolph, who had racquets affixed to both antlers and his tail. (My husband is a tennis player.) And always two decorations, one for him and one for me.
How many Christmas scenes can one household contain, never mind display? A nearby church had more than 100 nativity scenes on exhibit, and the hall was big.
When unpacking ornaments this year, I confess to some delight when I found the second gingerbread house in rubble – it could finally be pitched. I'm not a careful packer.
I have glued the wheels back onto Santa's train, made by Dad, even affixing Santa's de-velveteened butt to the caboose. Was I up to the challenge again? Only just, and not enough for Rudolph Federer, whose racquets had all come unglued, and who had broken two hooves. The box leapfrogged from my grip, and the scene became even more beyond repair.
Accidentally on purpose? My tiredness increased with the opening of each of the many boxes. Must I break things in order for them to release their hold?
I have tried to stop the influx of gifts, but family and friends are having none of that. I am pleased that the decluttering articles now say regifting is acceptable, but I'd rather not get the gifts in the first place. Yet I am guilty of buying up handmade ornaments or making them myself for gifts. So lovingly made, so festive! So cuuuuute.
This year's "stocking" from my parents was a basket in the shape of a sleigh. In it, a one-foot-tall, made-in-China reindeer doll sat with other assorted gifts. My bottle of wine came in a tin snowman container. Mom said I could use it to give to someone else next year, but where would it live in the intervening time? (And wouldn't a second bottle of wine have been preferable?)
Cute is not enough. I want some purpose – greenery to scent the air, mugs from which to sip rich confections, cushions on which to rest from all the packing up and to listen, long past the season, to Christmas Celtic harp music. If Christmas is all about tradition, why can't we just stop with what we already have?
Now there are 11 Christmas boxes to store. Halloween fits in two, Easter in one. Next year I'll prune, edit, pitch, follow all the advice of the decluttering experts. Perhaps Martha Stewart, with her many houses, will take in the excess. I'll just tell her it is a gift.
Meanwhile, the denuded living room looks … pretty darned good. I give the glass bowl of paperwhites pride of place. Shall I put baubles in it, or perhaps homemade Santa witches, next Christmas? The amaryllis is already blooming, an unusual lime green. No red in sight. Spring is already in the air.
Crystal Hurdle lives in North Vancouver.