It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here, and I am mostly happy about that. (Mostly ... it is a very frenetic time of year too, so there's no disputing that it gets tiring).
We normally put up our Christmas tree and decorate our house on the first weekend day in December, but this year, we have a ridiculously crowded weekend at the start of December (including the launch of Karen's book next Saturday! Are we excited? You bet we are :-)
So we took a unanimous family decision to Christmasify a weekend early this year, and spent four fun hours yesterday in hunting out, preparing for and setting up our tree, decorations, lights and our new Christmas train.
It was a little different this year. We listened to Christmas music, as we always do (by the by, if you've never heard the Crash Test Dummies Christmas album, you haven't lived), but we didn't bake as we decorated, and I didn't use the time to write Christmas cards, as I often do.
This is partly because I have a bad back at the moment, and baking would've put a bit too much stress on it, and partly because I have taken the decision that we won't be able to do our usual Christmas baked goods presents this year.
I did not take this decision lightly - baking and giving gingerbread and shortbread has been an important, and beloved, part of our Christmas season for the past seven years, and I am already missing it (as are the kids, I think).
However, this is also the first November-December since A was born that I have an average of 30 hours a week of work to complete, three children to juggle, and a physical injury to nurse. Those things are just not compatible with the industrial-kitchen-level baking we usually engage in, and I really don't want to do a half-job of it; if I bake for some people, I like to bake for all the people :-)
I am hoping to go back to baking next year, and I very much hope that our gift recipients enjoy their shop-bought gifts this time. They'll come with just as much love and thanks, if less physical labour.
Doing the Christmas tree without the warm scents of ginger, cinnamon and cloves in the air was definitely a bit strange. As was putting up the tree on the reverse side of the room to usual, to accomodate our brand new Christmas train.
(This was an indulgence that my 7 year old, E, and I bought when out on a shopping trip a few weeks back. The kids have always wanted one, and seeing as this is literally the first Christmas since E was old enough to speak that I could afford it without relying on the magic plastic - thank you, crowded year of contracting! - I thought, why the heck not).
All in all, though, we are happy with our tree. It was dressed with love, if not great artistic skill, and it makes our house feel festive and bright. I'm glad that we are finding ways to keep our Christmas traditions even in challenging times, even if it involves being flexible on the details and keeping focus on what really matters - which is spending time together in this lead-up to the big day.