DON’T ASK WHY- Living for those great family holiday traditions

I love this time of year. There’s a certain festiveness floating through the air that is only here as we move into December.

This time of year is a time for tradition; a time of getting ready to spend time with family and eat too much. A time to deck the halls with bows of holly and don our socially-acceptable-alternative-lifestyle apparel.

This cheerful mood is only marred slightly by the fact that you could get yourself into a lawsuit by saying “Merry Christmas” in public.

One of my favorite traditions of the season is opening the mailbox to find it stuffed full of jolly holiday wishes. Of course, these cards are only preprinted, mass-produced postcards from businesses whose services we haven’t used for more than 10 years. But they still carry merry little notes on them, for example:

We celebrate love, joy and peace

As Christmas Day approaches.

So let us know if we can help

Exterminate your roaches!

But of course, there are many other holiday traditions that I look forward to every year. Putting the Christmas tree together is one of them.

While most families bundle up and travel out to a nice tree farm and cut down the perfect tree while peaceful flurries fall around them, my family puts on the “Alvin and the Chipmunks Greatest Christmas Hits” CD and opens a large box that contains all of the necessary tree-parts for our Christmas tree.

All of the branches are color coded by size, so we know where to put them when assembling the tree. This is a nice family activity, and almost everyone-including the pets-get to help. Our cat Socks, for example, participates by sleeping in the box.

We’ve gotten fairly good at assembling the tree, because it has been part of our holiday décor for the past 10 years.

Once the tree is standing at its festive 7-foot height, another fun tradition begins: untangling the lights.

No matter how well Dad packs the lights every year, they always come out a year later twisted into a snarl of writhing light bulbs, having formed a union of unwindable bonds that will undoubtedly hold them together for well into the next century.

I’m pretty sure we could put each strand into a separate, 30-foot-long box and they would still come out in a confusing mess the next year.

After Dad has spent the better part of the day unwinding and wrapping the lights around the tree, we get to put the ornaments on. This would be a fairly mediocre tradition, except that this is the time when Socks comes out of her box and begins bapping the low-lying decorations and Slippers-our dog, who has been totally unaware of the day’s events in the living room-comes out and bonks into the tree.

Of course, we then have to decorate the outside of our house, too. One of the major things Dad and I do is put the lights on the roof.

The lights we use were manufactured in some little third-world country whose language has no words to describe “fire hazard.” They have been designed to go through any kind of trauma-including rain, blizzards and radiation-except to have electricity go through them.

They also come preburned out for our holiday convenience.

So then there is the tradition of buying replacement bulbs from K-Mart because the local stores have already sold out. But once we got home, Dad realized he had gotten the wrong wattage of lights.

This year, Dad decided to use these new light clips we bought last year during the after-Christmas sale. They were designed to clip onto the gutter. However, at that time purchase, Dad’s brain had temporarily lost the Gutter Screen file.

So instead of attaching them to the gutter, Dad found a way to twist part of the clip so that the other side would slide under the shingles, while the opposite side-the part that was designed to be fastened onto the gutter-could hold the lights.

We were two men on a mission: both of us sitting on the edge of the roof, me twisting and dad clipping.

In addition to lining the side of the roof with lights, we also string a couple strands along the peak. Unfortunately, the clips do not work for that particular task. This is when Dad gets out his staple gun and immediately shoots a staple right through the already frail strand of lights. (Twice. In a row.)

However, holiday traditions are not limited only to decorating. There’s also the popular event of shopping for that extremely popular and hard-to-find gift for that special someone in your life who will no doubt write you out of their will of you don’t get them that gift.

With all the searching we do around Christmas, it’s surprising that the theme from “Mission Impossible” hasn’t become a Christmas carol yet. However, it would be hard to sing: it’s got a nasty 5/8 time signature.

But Christmas caroling is one of the few ways you can go out into the world and spread some good old-fashioned holiday cheer; all while getting frostbite on your nose.

So let’s get those chestnuts roasting on an open fire, because, let’s face it, the holiday season has been here since at least October, when Wal-Mart got their decorations in.

There are still a lot more traditions to do before the big day actually gets here. We’ve still got tons of baking to do, children’s programs to attend, Christmas letters to write, family to invite, toilets to clean, the neighbor’s yard ornaments to steal… the list goes on!

But above all, this season presents a great opportunity to spend some quality time with family. That’s the best tradition of all.

Have an enjoyable winter event. And please don’t sue.

* * *

UFO: This holiday season, 52 percent of pet owners said they would feed their furry-friends table scraps.

Don’t ask why.

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