New city. New traditions.

The tradition in our family was to put the holiday decorations up after Thanksgiving. Never earlier. They stay up until January 6 (“Little Christmas” or the Feast of the Epiphany), although when I was working full-time outside the home, I’d put them all away on New Year’s Day in order to feel a fresh start going back to work on the 2nd. Once my daughter came along and developed an opinion, she objected to both.

She told me just last week that she doesn’t like Thanksgiving because she “loves Christmas so much and Thanksgiving gets in the way.” LOL She starts bugging me about putting up the decorations right after Halloween. I’ve stuck to my guns. No Christmas until after Thanksgiving. Six weeks of coffee in holly-adorned mugs, keeping the cat out of the tree, and a house smelling like some combination of cinnamon, balsam, and candy canes (thanks to our seasonal trip to Bath & Body Works for candles and soaps) is enough for me.

Last year – our last Thanksgiving in our New Jersey home – it was just us. I promised her a low-key Thanksgiving the way she wanted. I let her choose the menu (no Turkey!), and, yes, I’d agree to set up the Christmas decorations right after dinner. That’s where she started chipping away at my tradition. This year, our first in Chicago, I decided it was okay to start some new traditions.

Our Thanksgiving will be split this year. She and I will be having lunch together much the way we did last year, then she will be heading back to New Jersey to spend the rest of the long holiday weekend with her boyfriend and his family, while I venture on to have dinner at my boyfriend’s home with his family (she wasn’t quite ready for our attempt at blending families, so Enzo the dog and I will test the waters first).

The fact that she wasn’t going to be at home to help with the decorating after Thanksgiving was the ultimate factor that contributed to my decision, but there was more. I will admit that this can be a difficult time of year. I waver between my own child-like excitement that seasonal music (available on SiriusXM beginning November 1st!) resurrects in me, to missing all the people that used to make up my holiday celebrations through the years and wanting to crawl under a blanket until it’s all over. I try hard to maintain the child-like excitement.

Chicago, I believe, embraces the holidays early. I remember coming here on business the weekend before Thanksgiving years ago and noticing all the decorations up already, making one think it was December. And not just retail stores, as is always the case, but the city streets – and O’Hare!

As the temperatures dipped below freezing last week, I also noticed the snowflake decorations on the light posts lining the main street of my neighborhood. I felt the cold on my face, but was warmed by thoughts of spice smelling candles, hot chocolate with marshmallows, and yes, Christmas. It wasn’t too early, was it?

When I was a kid, my parents owned a gift shop and they would designate a room “The Christmas Shop” which would feature Christmas decorations for sale beginning in August! While the post-Thanksgiving decorating tradition in our home certainly started with my parents, as a child, I still had this magical place to go to surround myself with nutcrackers, lit trees, and balsam incense, even weeks before Halloween.  So, who was I to deny my daughter an early start to the Christmas season?

This week, we got the decorations out of storage and proceeded to find new homes for everything. In our old home, everything had a place. Here we had to be more thoughtful of the placement of every item. That made decorating more mindful and special. We made our trip to Bath & Body Works. Winter Candy Apple soap for the kitchen;Fresh Sparkling Snow and Twisted Peppermint for the bathrooms.  Fresh Balsam remains my favorite candle because the scent transports me back to my parent’s Christmas shop.

New city. New traditions. A whole new outlook for a joyous holiday season with warm memories of holidays past. Although January 6this my limit. I swear.

A new home for the holiday decorations. Lakeview East. Chicago, Illinois. November 2018.

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