Posts tagged ‘decorations’

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

WARNING: For those of you who are sensitive about this topic, I am going to be discussing the true nature of Santa Claus.  So read further at your own peril.

tree

As I mentioned in a previous post, I celebrated every Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house.  This meant that my family and I were in Rhode Island on Christmas Day every year, while our house, our tree, and — most importantly — our chimney were all in upstate New York, 365 miles away.  So I didn’t grow up with the experience of waking my parents before dawn on December 25th to see what Santa had left under our tree.  We had to wait until we got home.  We would usually stay in Rhode Island through the New Year, and then drive the 8 hours home along I-90.  When we got home, no matter what time of day or night it was, the Christmas tree lights would be lit, the stockings would be full, and presents would fill the space beneath our tree.  It was an extra layer of Christmas magic that could not be easily explained, since our parents were in the car with us the whole way home.

One year, I distinctly remember Santa coming early so that we could have Christmas before we drove to my grandparents’.  My mom, sister and I had gone out to buy some last-minute gifts, and when we got home, the tree that we had left off was lit in the middle of the day.  My mom first noticed this and pointed it out when we were in the driveway.  When we got inside, Santa had come early, just for us!  I immediately ran back outside, thinking that I would be able to see the reindeer’s tracks in the fresh snow on our roof — and they were there.  A single line of tracks, to be sure, and roughly squirrel-sized, but the poem says tiny reindeer, right?  It was proof enough for me.

angel

So every year, my sister and I went through the toy section of the thick department store catalogues that were sent to the house (anyone else old enough to remember this?), made out our Christmas lists, and then sent them off to Santa.  As my sister and I got older, belief in most of the pantheon of magical beings went by the wayside.  (I actually remember going to the principal of my elementary school with a few other kids in 2nd or 3rd grade to complain about a book in our classroom that debunked the Tooth Fairy myth.  We were trying to be morally outraged.  He was surprisingly unsympathetic.)  But we could never quite explain away Santa.

We took a crack at it one year.  My mom promised to tell the truth, if we guessed right.  Did my parents put the gifts under the tree while we were waiting for them in the car?  No, there clearly wasn’t enough time for that.  Did they hide the gifts with our neighbor Elaine, who always took care of our cats while we were gone, and have her put them under the tree?  No, they didn’t do that either.  Several minutes of questioning left us stumped.  There was no other explanation: Santa was real.

shadows

I remember walking home from school with my best friend Stacey at age 12, with the two of us comparing all of the evidence we had for the existence of Santa.  We compared traditions, told stories of the year we got a letter, or an ornament direct from Santa, complete with our names on them.  We were proving to ourselves that he could be real, willingly suspending a belief that most kids have grown out of by the time they get to that age.

So that year, or maybe even the next, my family came home from Rhode Island, and walked into a house that was cold and dark.  The stockings were empty.  The floor under the tree was bare.  I was shocked to see the house looking so desolate.  I turned to my mother and burst into tears.  She was surprised, and hugged me with a somewhat bewildered look on her face.  And then she reminded us that, years ago, she had told us Santa would stop coming to our house when we stopped believing in him.  I’m pretty sure I wailed something along the lines of, “I do believe in him!”  But she pointed out the simple fact that I had missed: this was the first year that neither my sister or I had made out a list for Santa.  And I realized that she was right, I deserved nothing under the tree, because for the first time I had forgotten about Santa.

ornaments

We went upstairs, gathered up all the wrapped presents, brought them downstairs, and filled the stockings.  It was a fine Christmas, once I got over the initial shock.  And I got used to walking into a dark house every year, and then bringing down the presents one at a time to put under the tree.  But I think there was a grain of truth hidden in what my mother said.  Santa only stops coming if you stop believing.  And I decided at a young age to believe. 

Because now, every year, I am excited to make and give gifts from my heart to the people I love, and to see the surprise and excitement on their faces when I manage to find exactly the right gift.  That’s my inner Santa at work.  And as long as you learn how to go from waiting for Santa, to being Santa, you know that he will be there every year, bringing the magic and the surprise of Christmas into your home.  At least, that’s what I believe.

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Decorating the New House

I promised pictures of the house once I got it into order, and since I scrambled to get some decorating done before my family came, I should post some pictures of it now.  Some rooms are still unfinished, but this is what I was able to get done so far.

I started by going a little nuts with textiles and hanging pretty much every piece of my fairly extensive collection.  Most of my textiles are from Kyrgyzstan, but I have pieces from Peru, Panama, and Cameroon too.

Kyrgyz shyrdak upstairs

Kyrgyz souzani in the stairwell, Kyrgyz and Panamanian squares above

Kyrgyz shyrdak, knotted carpet and embroidery near front door

Cameroonian batik and elephant paintings in dining area

The first room we got set up was our bedroom, which is all in chocolate tones.  The walls are a kind of nasty, mustardy brown, but we needed to live in here, so we haven’t repainted it yet.  Note the curtain on the right hand side of the frame, which acts as a door to the master bath.  It’s actually a dark purple, but it blends pretty well with the browns in the room.  You can see I haven’t put anything on the walls or the shelves in there yet.

our bedroom

Then of course there is the guest room, that I repainted for my folks’ visit.  I’ve always wanted to do a room inspired by the colors of the winter sky, snow, and dry oak leaves, and I think I got something close, even though the blue walls are a lot more saturated than a winter sky.  I had some nice carved woodblock panels that I think go really well in this room.  I also had a couple of short shelving units that I think worked really well as bookshelves/bedside tables.

guest room

 We also set up the upstairs den as a kind of media center, since the projector, screen, and DVD player that came with the house are up there.  I moved in shelves of books, DVDs, and CDs to enjoy, with a few more tapestries and a painting I have.

media room

The futon usually goes in this room, and we have a recliner that we want to put up here too, so that folks have somewhere to sit if they want to watch a movie, or just read.  But my sister J needed someplace to sleep while she was visiting, so we moved the futon into the jungle room for her.  It’s a fairly small room, and the full-sized futon pretty much took up the whole space.  I wanted to get more up on the walls, but I don’t think J really minded. 

jungle room with futon

We want to keep the tree, even though it takes up a lot of space, because we plan on using this as a baby room in the future (knock on wood, tu-tu-tu).  But it will be our office/craft room in the meantime.  Once the futon gets moved back to the media room, I am planning on moving the card table and folding chair we bought for extra Thanksgiving seating up there to use.  It should help me get through all of the Christmas presents I need to make this year!

And speaking of Christmas presents, this weekend I was a knitting maniac.  Of the three knitted presents I am making, I finished one, got 90% of the way through a second, and halfway through a third.  But I have 10 more non-knitted presents to finish, and only about 15 crafting days before Christmas — yikes!

Paper Snowflakes for Grownups

As soon as Halloween was over and the first white flake was floating in the air, my coworker C was making paper snowflakes.  She has a passion for them, and makes dozens every year.  Soon, not only did the windows of her office start to fill up, but snowflakes started appearing in other people’s offices too, all snipped by C.

flakes indoors and out

I’m pretty good with paper and a pair of scissors, and I always loved making snowflakes, even into my teens, but it had been a long time since I’d made one.  Then a lovely, delicate snowflake appeared on my office window:

C's flake

The gauntlet had been thrown.  I had to make a flake.

Because some of the curlicues in C’s flakes reminded me of the designs the Kyrgyz people use in their felt carpets, called shyrdaks, I decided to make a shyrdak-inspired snowflake.  My their nature, these designs are bi-laterally symmetrical, so I knew they would work well in this medium.  I also had practice drawing these designs, since I wrote my thesis on them, and often sketched a design in my field notes.  I folded my sheet of copier paper into eighths, took a long while to draw a complete design out, and then started snipping away.

Kyrgyz-inspired flake

the inspiration

(I was really quite proud of how this came out, and am trying to figure out how I can preserve it once the holidays are over.  But that’s another post.)

Meanwhile, C was still snipping away.  Turns out, she does all of her flakes freehand.  Since I used to make snowflakes that way, I decided to try one.  It came out looking like the Girl Scout symbol in tiger print.  I hated it, but C pretended that she liked it, so it went in with the growing collection on her office door.

find my flake?

 It was back to the drawing board, literally.  Once I realized that symmetry was the key, I started thinking about other possible themed designs.  Since I’m an archaeologist, I figured I needed to make one of these:

projectile point flake

And then for the historical archaeologists in the office, I of course had to make this one:

bottle flake

 I started looking up actual photographs of snowflakes for inspiration, and realized that ice crystals for in a six-spoke pattern, not an eight-spoke one.  So I folded a sheet of copier paper in half, then accordioned it into just three folds, and lined up the edges as best I could before creasing.  (I shared this technique with C, as you can tell from a few of the flakes on her office door.)  Looking at real snowflake outlines for inspiration, I drew and cut this flake:

ice flake

When I tried another one, attempting to somehow integrate all the great patterns created by ice crystals in the center of real flakes, I ended up with something that looked like Eastern European folk art, or a wood block print:

Polish flake

Meanwhile, I had mentioned colored snowflakes to C, who was having a great time experimenting with them in her office:

bright flakes

spiders, crabs, or frogs?

Finally, she gave me another inspiration for a snowflake design, something she does all the time freehand, but that I had to draw out before I could pull it off.  Can you figure out the basis for this design?

mystery design

In a year when budgets are tight, why not try making snowflakes for your office, home, or tree decorations?  You don’t need to be a little kid to like them!