Published Dec 17, 2010

You know those Christmas lights that you always hear about burning down houses? Yeah, we have those hanging up in our house.
They’re called Santa Lights, and my grandparents got them when my father was just a tyke. For years after that, the Santa Lights lit the family Christmas trees; now they sit wrapped around one of our windows. We turn them on when we’re cold and want to heat the entire room. Somehow, despite this gigantic thermal production, the Santa Lights never set a Christmas tree on fire. They even operate with one light burnt out! I guess you could say that they’re good-quality.It’s great how they made things back then. Not only does the documentation state that the Santa Lights are suitable for “use on AC or DC current” — who’s wired for DC anymore? Heck, who was still wired for DC back then? — but they come in a great-looking package, complete with extra 15¢ lights:
We have a lot of other great retro decorations as well. There’s the paper stocking that hangs on the bedroom door, complete with fun-loving holiday elves:
There’s the Christmas Tree skirt, which frankly isn’t particularly dramatic but has somehow held up for years (also: totally flammable too!):
And then there’s the highlight, the glass ornaments. I was never allowed to put these on a tree when I was little — on the few occasions we had trees — because they’re breakable. (Don’t worry, we had unbreakable ornaments too!) Some of these ornaments are painted, others are just shiny, but they’re all great:
Growing up, these would come out every Christmas, old friends I was excited to see again; always these, never new decorations. We were a Christmas equipment-keeping type of family. Decorations went away into a big black leather duffel, dusty from its long life in closets playing the role of storage rather than that of carriage, that came out only at Christmas. But, most of all, we saved wrapping paper.Those ads on TV, where the kids would open their presents with abandon? Yeah, I was jealous of those. I longed for the unrestrained exhilaration of the TV giftees, ripping their wrapping paper asunder, their faces changing from eager anticipation to beaming joy as the ragged, torn paper was thrown aside and the wonderful box within revealed. We carefully released the tape that held our presents shut, delicately unfolded the paper, setting it aside carefully — and, equally carefully, removing the bow and the tag! — before we looked at the goodie contained therein.After we’d opened the bounty Santa had brought, there was always clean-up. The wrapping paper, painstakingly set aside during the opening of the presents, would be folded and packed away; the bows put in one bag, the ribbon in another, the tags in a third (if you were smart, you’d kept three separate piles as you opened your presents); and all of it would be put in a closet, to sit safely away and appear again come wrapping-time next year.Of course, in many ways our pack-rattiness was convenient. Sure, paper got creased and patterns faded; sure, the stickum on the bottom of bows dried out and the little loop of scotch tape you used to fix the bow on made it bounce like a spring over the present; but you already had all of the cards you needed made up. To Mom, from Wade? There! From Grandma, to Wade? Ditto! Even Santa had cards made up from him to provide for anonymous gifts.And, of course, it was fun because all of these old friends could come out year after year. Hello wrapping paper that I liked last year; hello gift bag I wish I’d gotten; hello tag that was on the best gift of all, I hope you’ve got something good for me this year too!Now we’ve inherited all of our Christmas goodies, passed down from grandparents to parents to, finally, our little household. And it really is exciting to see everything again, and it really does make this place feel like home. I love it. But we don’t re-use our wrapping paper anymore, no siree. This year, I get to tear my gifts open with abandon, because we make some new traditions here too.