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Tis the Decorating Season
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There are some who have already completed decorating, just as there are some who have completed Christmas shopping.

I understand those wanting to get a jump on things but anyone putting up Christmas lights before Thanksgiving should be beaten with a frozen turkey. And anyone who has finished Christmas shopping should be required to stand naked in the mall wearing a sign that reads, "I am too organized."

Putting up Christmas decorations brings about its own joy and misery, elation and frustration.

First you have to find the boxes where the decorations are stored. This normally means venturing into the attic or dark recess of the garage, which makes a trip to the dentist feel like a day in an easy chair.

The first thing you will probably find is the box with the volleyball set in it you looked for all summer but couldn’t locate.

Then you will almost certainly find a box of Christmas items purchased at an after Christmas sale that have never been used. Finding a new string of lights with a label noting, "Warranty expires in 2004" indicates you might want to avoid after Christmas specials this year.

A mystery rivaling the Bermuda Triangle is why Christmas decorations never fit back in the box they came in. This means creative storage and anyone who does not believe in gremlins has never dealt with Christmas decorations.

You may have spent hours carefully storing strings of lights but when you open the box this year, you will discover they have managed to tangle themselves into a mass of wires that would frighten Indiana Jones.

Untangling strings of Christmas lights makes building the pyramids look easy. This job requires two things and can have two results. It requires patience and a cocktail. The results will be you will either have usable lights or you will trash the entire mess and go buy new decorations.

If you successfully untangle the wires, you are almost certain to find a string that will not work. The natural tendency is to believe they worked last year. In truth, they probably didn’t work last year but for reasons defying logic they were stored anyway.

One of the great paradoxes of decorating is that you can test every string before putting them on the tree or house but at least one of them will not work afterwards. And when Christmas is over, you will have forgotten which one, which is how it will end up in the box for next year.

But just as your patience nears its end, you will find that special box every family has.

It is the one containing the cracked tree ornament, the reindeer with one antler, the nativity scene missing the wise men, the crooked star made by a child’s hand.

They are the tangible relics of Christmas past, each stirring an individual memory and preserved because they warm our hearts and take us to an untroubled place and time. Hold one in your hand and you can not help but smile.

That is the joy of Christmas decorations.

And it makes dealing with tangled string of lights just a small price to pay.


Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at