Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Decking the Halls, Part 1: Hokie Dreams

The Hokie Christmas Tree!It's that time of year again, and the holiday season means decorations! We got a slightly later start than we'd have liked due to being so busy--I know as a kid that I gave my parents fits pleading to get the tree up earlier and earlier each year, as if somehow that might bring Christmas (and presents) sooner by so doing--but still managed to get the first of our several trees up in line with the family Thanksgiving-weekend tradition.

We started with our "Hokie Tree," a deep maroon tree decorated in orange. Several years ago, Hecht's (and other May's stores) offered a wide variety of funky colors for their Christmas trees. Pink tinsel trees have always been something of a fashionable kitsch, but May's took things to an entirely new level with their lime, lilac, teal, and burgundy lineup. We watched all the local Hecht's for sales (the sticker price of $400+ being more than we could justify), and though our search led us to every mall in northern Virginia, in the end it was my parents who scored the prize at the Kaufmann's in the Charleston Town Center mall. Yes, the normally-priced-$525, seven-and-a-half-foot, pre-lit tree could be had (floor model only) for the Boxing Day bargain of $150.

Our friend Meg Nugent got us a good start on orange ornaments with a selection of "old-world" shapes, and I already had quite a few Virginia Tech ornaments as well. Several years' worth of picking over the post-Christmas deals at Michael's, Target, and every mall department store we could tolerate brought in a bevy of several more orange decorations, and an All Souls' Day (that's November 2) find at Costco added orange LED lights to replace the energy-sucking incandescents on the prelit tree. The orange garland was actually the hardest to track down; eventually, eBay located the stuff as an import from the British Isles and a whopping $7 per 5' strand (ironically, the garland is actually made in the USA).

Beth assisted with tree assemblyPutting up artificial trees has gotten significantly easier since the days when as a child I proudly erected my little four foot tree and decorated it with no less than eight strands of lights (I tried to buy a new set to add each year in the Boxing Day closeouts). No more do you have to match the branch colors to the base and assemble, jigsaw-style, the tree from the bottom up. Trees now come in sections with hinged, drop-down branches, and rather than an evening spent looking for that last yellow-tipped branch hastily stowed during take-downs the year before, the tree itself goes up in ten minutes or less.

Still, at seven and a half feet, the Hokie tree is still enough of a beast that it really takes two, and Beth (in her coordinating pink PJs) lent quite a helping hand. Decorating the tree did take several hours as we fit the different orange, VT, and our special ornaments (mostly pet-themed) on and around the many branches.

In-between seasons, the tree stows in a plastic tote (below), another innovating in holiday decorating technology which, for a display model tree which came with no box, is a necessity. But wow, that's one heavy, bulky tote to drag up the stairs each year, inevitably drawing the joke from one of us that there's a body or two stashed inside.

The Hokie Tree in its storage bag
One tree down, several more to go... last year saw us "only" putting up two: the Hokie tree in the living room and my old green tree in the dining room clad in bird-themed ornaments. I've got a beautiful white tree I picked up years ago when I lived alone which we want to finally put up again, it having stayed in storage since 2005 or so.

'Tis the season, eh? Now, if we only have the time and energy to finish our decorations before January...

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