Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Image courtesy of  Ts88Rm at deviantart.com
Five Views of a Christmas Tree
By Judith Cullen
(c) 2014

View Two

I had not yet reached the first legal portal of “majority” yet.  That would come in May of the next year.  This was, however, my first “adult” Christmas.  Perhaps it was actually the final Christmas of an era.  The tree had come out with the regiment of long tradition, and stood proudly in its place before the front windows, alight and sparkling.

As was also traditional, we brought the presents down and placed them under the tree on Christmas Eve.  This ritual had very defined steps which we never deviated from.  As youngest, I always went first.  There was the Santa hat to be worn, and the string of jingle bells on its crocheted red string.  Everyone but the “present-er” closed their eyes, munched on a Christmas cookie while the stereo played holiday music, and the gift delivering member of the family Ho-ho-ho’d their way into the living room and placed their presents under the tree.  If you had a lot of packages to deliver, it could be a challenge to “ho-ho” that long.  Mom always went last, and Dad had to sometimes stage her stuff in the adjacent front hall.  Since she wrapped for both herself and Dad, she always had the most packages to place.  Dad’s presents to her were wrapped by kid-assist.  We’d open our eyes after each family member had done their placing, and were appropriately impressed, with much “Oooo-ing” and “Aaahh-ing.”

Writing it all out and reading it through I can see that describing it doesn’t truly reflect the joy and fun we derived from this.  Simple pleasures seldom bear up to the scrutiny of analysis.  The beauty is their essential lack of complexity.  We looked forward to this.  I looked forward to it, even at the jaded age of 17.  We laughed, when the ho-ho patter got too strained.  Or the year someone dropped a present coming down the stairs and “ho-ho-ho” turned to “no-no-no.”  Fortunately, nothing was broken.  The hat was scratchy, the bells awkward, the patter tiring and we loved it!

For the most part, the beverage of choice at these events was hot chocolate with a smattering of crushed candy cane or maybe a marshmallow.  We snacked on homemade Christmas cookies and whatever else suited Mom’s fancy.  We slurped our drinks.  We laughed, and started reciting the litany of family holiday quips from previous years.  “The Turkey is the one with the knife and fork in his hand” – courtesy of an extended family gathering in which the inexperienced carver mutilated the bird.  “It’s a shotgun” – courtesy of my maternal Grandfather who annually picked up either the smallest or most improbably shaped package, rattled it, and thought for a moment before uttering the much remembered words.

Mulled Wine (public domain)
In my mid-teen years, my Mom discovered a recipe for a spiced wine that suited Dad’s tastes and her sense of what was not too boozy.  That threshold was very low.  Mom and Dad were not big drinkers.  “Wine Spritzers” of wine and Seven-Up were pretty much the extent of things. This recipe involved wine, cranberry juice, and a variety of smaller ingredients and spices which blended into a wonderful warm drink incongruously called “Glogg.”  Having never met a recipe she couldn’t improve, Mom added a touch of orange juice which gave the over all flavor a little spark. I am sure it once had a more elegant name, but Glogg was all I ever knew it by.  It became a part of the Christmas Eve bill of fare, even delaying the start of the present-placing festivities while it reached its optimum serving temperature.

This particular year, I was allowed to have some for the very first time.  I could hardly contain myself.  I was going to get to drink a grown-up drink!  What was more, one that contained WINE!  This seemed like a fairly liberal maneuver on the part of my parents, especially my Mom who was a very good parent and not known for being an easy touch to the passing whimsies of her children.  But sure enough, I got to Glogg!

I remember savoring the drink’s appeal.  It was not too fruity, the wine was not overbearing, the spices were just right.  It warmed you from the inside, enabling the onset of a pleasant holiday glow.  I slurped my first cup eagerly, and went back for a second.

I can’t recall if I stopped at two cups or not.  It was really delicious and did not taste dangerous at all.  It tasted sweet, exotic, and very adult.  What I do remember is the inside of the Christmas tree.  Yes, you read that correctly so there’s no need to go back and look again.  I did write: “the inside of the Christmas tree.”  There wasn’t that much wine in the Glogg, and the intoxicating properties of cranberry and orange juice – even combined – are dubious.  Never the less, there I was on Christmas Eve of my 17th year, with my head wedged in among the presents, flat on my back, staring up through the branches of the Christmas tree and giggling.  That year, the tree was not the only thing lit on the night before Christmas.


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