An Ode to Holiday Decorations

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Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. Tis the season to be jolly is right. There is so much going on this time of year, I think its really cool that, while not all of them give us time off of work or school, they are all nationally celebrated. And in some aspects, globally as well.

As a note, if I fail to mention your favorite holiday, let me know in a comment. Obviously no bashing of Holidays will happen in this post. If you celebrate a different holiday at this time of year, awesome, I wish i knew more about the different holidays. That is something I will do more research on for next time as we get further into our sub-themes.
As Halloween has long since passed, I will start my post talking shortly about Thanksgiving.
Every year, I guarantee you, every mother hopes that this year's meal looks like this:
rockwell-thanksgiving.jpg
But every year, without fail, it ends up looking a lot like this:
simpsons_thanksgiving.gif
Try and try again next year.

Thanksgiving is a time to share with family. A time to be thankful for what you've received in the last 12 months, and more often than not, eat enough food to explode your stomach. And then, top it off with some pumpkin pie, a la mode.

Christmas, it seems, could essentially be described the same way, but exchange the pumpkin pie with eggnog and add gift exchanging in there as well.

rock_center_xmas.jpg

Pictured above is Rockefeller Center in New York City. This little square of the city is often thought of as the quintessential "Christmas Atmosphere." The tree, lights, skating rink, and all the love in the air make it the perfect place to set 50% of all the romantic Christmas movies ever made. Ice skating on Christmas Eve, anyone? Don't forget to bring along your hot chocolate and a 12 piece orchestra!

Christmas trees. Big or small, they mean something to us a society. According to the Christian tradition of christmas, the fact that fir trees stay green year round is a symbol of everlasting life and a reminder of the coming spring.

The history of bringing a tree into the home and covering it with decorations is a long and expansive tale. Some say it started in Germany with Martin Luther. Others say it started in Riga, Latvia. One detail about the trees that brought them into the homes of modern Americans was a picture in the Illustrated London News in 1848. A picture of the Queen's family surrounding a tree entitled "The Queen's Christmas tree at Windsor Castle." Two years later, the same picture (slightly modified to make it more American) was published in Godey's Lady's Book. Thus brought the tradition to the masses of Western Civilization after happening in Europe for so long.

Okay. Snap back to 2013. It's November 11th (Veterans Day, another very important holiday to be exact).

What do people in Minneapolis do to decorate their homes? That is the burning question I know everyone is dying to know.

To answer that question, I had to ask it. Three times.
So I did. I asked three people about their ideas regarding decorating for the holidays and here's what they said.

Q: When do you start decorating for the holidays?

A1: I'm a very traditional when it comes to decorating for the holidays. Seeing as I decorate for all three holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) I make sure I do it in order and I take my time. It's not like I put my Thanksgiving stuff up on Nov. 1st, nor do I put up my tree on Dec. 1st. I take down the old stuff decently quickly, but in the re-decorating process, as long as I have time, I might take three days to put up and decorate my tree. Makes the spirit of the process more enjoyable.

A2: Nov. 1st.
I would have put up my tree on Nov. 1st but my roommates said no. 'Don't forget about Thanksgiving!' they said. Well, I can't go home for Thanksgiving, so I'm pretending that its just not happening.

A3: I decorate for all of the holidays, so I'm constantly decorating. I collect a few specific styles of decorations, so it takes a while to set things up. I don't have a specific day. I decorate by feel/feeling.

Q: Would you say you have a specific style when you decorate?

A2: Lots of garland and ornaments. Lots.

A3: I have collected three specific decorations over the last 20 years. Angels, snowmen, and Santas. I pretty much have a box full of each one. I change up the placement every year, but there are obviously some items that are too big to fit anywhere other that where I always put them.

Q: What was decorating as a child in your mother's home like?

A1: Also very traditional. That's probably where I get it. We would always make it a family affair. Dad would go up into the attic and bring down the boxes of ornaments, garland, and other things. We would go to the tree lot and pick out our tree. Cut it down and tie it to the top of the station wagon....It was the sixties. Very cookie cutter story, I know.
We usually took a couple days to decorate the house. Depending on if the family Christmas dinner was at our house, we would do some extra cleaning before decorating.
I personally went out and got a real tree every year until about 6 years ago. But my parents did, at least until I left the house.

A2: I don't have the same amount of decorations that my mom does, so it doesn't take as long. But in general, it's pretty much the same. I'm going home for christmas this year as always, so I would say nothing has really changed. We don't get a real tree anymore. Thats the one thing that has changed. So much more work to go out and get a real one.

Q: How does your decorating differ when you know you are going out of town for the holidays?

A3: We don't put up the tree. Our two cats like to chew on the branches and play with the ornaments. They've broken too many ornaments while we are in the house, its not worth it to lose at ton more when we go out of town. We still put up the lights and connect them to a timer. That way, every day at 6pm they turn on and turn off the next morning to save electricity. Makes it seem like we are home (security purposes) and it makes the house look bad when all of the neighbors put their lights up and we don't because we leave town. So, we put them up every year. More presentable, more inviting. We also mount a star on the side of the chimney. Once it gets dark, it looks like the star the Wise Men saw, from the Christmas story. Wreaths under the front lights, no matter the year. And when we drive out of town, we mount a wreath on the front of our car. Bring the Christmas cheer along for the ride.

Last Question: When do you take your decorations down after the holidays are over?

A1: Being catholic, I take them down after epiphany. So, January 6/7th. I leave my lights and my tree up until then, but I take them down pretty quick after that.

A2: Sometimes we leave the tree up until the middle/end of January. Mostly because no one has time to take it all down, but usually its down a week or two after Christmas.

A3: I remember one year we didn't take the tree down until February. Everyone was so busy that we just didn't get around to it. The cats loved it and it looked nice still (fake tree, no worries). Now that the kids are gone, I don't have my little helpers anymore to take things down.

Three interviews. Three totally different perspectives on Holiday decorating. Now for my turn.

As it is still only the 11th, it was difficult to sit and observe someone actually decorate their home or office space, but I did do some people-0watching in the decoration section of Target. It was beneficial to see other people (as compared to my own family) interact with their loved ones to pick out ornaments and different decorations.

As I do not have any holiday decorations here at home, the only access I have to decorating (of sorts) is at work. I work for Starbucks, and I specifically remember the looks on customer's faces when they see we have our Holiday things set up. Holiday cups, holiday beverages, gift items for sale, all that kind of stuff. You can see the joy on their face when they realize they can finally get their gingerbread latte, or peppermint mocha (year round people, just saying) again. Experience-wise, it's nice to see people happy to see the decorating.

Unless you are a scrooge, holiday spirit is where it's at. Family, giving, and food. Bring on the pie.

3 Comments

I really liked your introduction and narratives of each different type of holiday decorations because I am not really familiar with how American people celebrate holiday, and each holiday is celebrated in a different way. I really appreciate it.

I thought that it might help to understand more of the contexts in sight if you give some information about interviewees and why you chose these people for your sub-theme. I wonder where problems are… but I liked your ideas, going to Target and experiencing, observing people decorating things since it is really hard to observe someone decorating at home when it’s not the time. And I though it was a good idea to bring up your own experience of working for Starbucks and relate to holiday decorations.

I think you did a good job with introducing your subject matter. I thought the Thanksgiving intro was fun as well as the cultural aspects of Christmas. Personally, I celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving. However, I don't celebrate Thanksgiving as much. My parents are from Poland, so they didn't grow up with the tradition of Thanksgiving.

I thought you did a good job with the Question/Answer format. I thought that was a good way for showing your observations. However, it would have been better to give the people names or fake names instead of A1,A2,A3 particularly because not every person had an answer. Also, it was hard to tell if you went into depth or did follow up questions.

You had a good idea to check out target, but it would have been nice to know what your specific observations were. Also, you could have tried to experience more. Maybe looked up some ways to inexpensively decorate your room, or something like that. Your post was also lacking problem statements, which made it difficult to figure out what needed solving.

I think you are off to a good start and what you have is good, but you definitely need more! I'm sure there are some important problems to solve. The person with the cats seems like they need some solutions. My parents cats do the same things!

Ross, the introduction to your blog was especially entertaining to read, and the interviews as well! I loved how you added the photos in the beginning (very funny)! I also appreciated your questions for your interviews, they left room for the interviewee to elaborate on their answer and provide more details and leads for you to work with, not to mention room for you to ask "why".
I would suggest maybe adding headers on the different parts of the assignment to help organize the blog, so when someone is reading it they can scroll and stop where they need to be. Another suggestion I would have to offer would be to elaborate on your observations at Target. It would be fun to hear about specific things you witnessed while you were there, and, as awkward as it may be, maybe some pictures! (If not of the people christmas decoration shopping, of the decorations or ornaments, or maybe of the decorations and specialty mugs in Starbucks)!
Overall, I really like the personalization of your blog, and the attention you paid in writing it :)

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This page contains a single entry by neuma278 published on November 11, 2013 9:28 AM.

Brace yourselves...Winter is coming!! was the previous entry in this blog.

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