December 1st

Kage Baker was of the school of Christmas decorations that held: you should wait until December to decorate. So am I, so is my family.

I notice that the custom is growing, to begin Christmas lights, at least, as early as Thanksgiving. That’s fine if you want to do it, especially if it is a family tradition. But it’s not what Kage liked. We had a specific and strict schedule: lights go up on the 1st, tree goes up on the 15th, tree comes down on New Year’s Day, lights come down on 12th Night (which is January 6th.)

We pretty much follow that schedule here, now, at my family’s house. However, instead of taking down the outside lights, they stay up and are altered to suit the season. Thus, today, we have taken down the orange and yellow lights, and are adding blue ones to the white lights on the front porch. On the iron fence around the front yard, coloured lights are strung all around our perimeter. There is amazingly little bulb theft. It must be the spirit of the season.

The garland that always hangs over the arch into the dining room changes now, too. It has been autumn leaves and tiny orange lights, which makes the entire living room look like the famous Amber Room in the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg. Of course, the original walls panels, crafted from Baltic amber, were looted in WWII, and have since been replaced with new ones – but no one knows where the originals got to, as they have never been found. Personally, I think they are decorating some high-ranking Facilitator’s digs in the European Company base … but the faux effect in our living room is still gorgeous during autumn.

Now it will change to a fir garland, with white lights. And under that, a string of lovely pointy Edison lights, with visible filaments like bottled lightning.We have recently added a beautiful white porcelain stag’s head over the mantle, and he will get a wreath around his neck – holly leaves and berries, and white faerie lights. The.mantle will also be decked, with greenery and candle lights; and, yes, we will unashamedly hang stockings! Kage and I always did, even in years when we had to hang them on door knobs.

This year, though, we are planning on a major change to our tree ritual. We ordinarily have a lovely artificial tree, because Kimberly and I object to cutting down living trees, and because my late brother-in-law was allergic to most resins and pollens. This year, a new resident has made us change our technique. The addition to our household of a black Maine Coon, who is now – although at 10 months he is technically still a kitten, and will continue growing for a couple of years – is currently more than 3 feet long, weighs 15 pounds and is demonstrably capable of limited flight.

Therefore, this year, we are putting up a tree of only lights, in the front bay window. Green lights for the outline, coloured lights for decorations, and a snowflake at the top. Edward will still be fascinated and poke his black velvet paws and nose everywhere, but it will prevent his scaling the usual 7-foot tree. If he behaves well, we may try a tiny real tree on a table to one side. After all, as Kimberly observed optimistically, there are only so many times Edward is willing to get shot with a squirt gun … Whatever we do, it will be lovely. And madly amusing.

And today, Dear Readers, I actually went shopping! Only one stop, and Michael had to push me in my chair (a festive and seasonal red), and I collapsed into an immediate nap once we got home – but I did it! I managed! Wore my mask just as I ought, and had a lovely time. It’s hard to get presents for your chauffeur when he is actively pushing you, but I’ve done most of the big items by mail order already. Trips to places like Cost Plus are for sweeties, and goodies like enormous tins of ginger snaps. And, of course, for weird candies.

Kage would approve of all of this, I fervently believe. She adored shopping, and she and I always made an enormous deal out of Christmas shopping trips. I did most of the lighting effects – ladders do not faze me – but she designed ours for the most part; which meant that, no matter how small our dwellings were, they dripped lights and gave off illumination that drew fascinated wild animals to come investigate. If the Witch had had coloured lights, she wouldn’t have needed a Gingerbread Candy house to lure Hansel and Gretel – they’d have come to the light display like little moths in clogs and caps.

I hope our beloved dead come to the lights, as well. Christmas is a time for ghosties, according to the Britanno-Celtic heritage we shared. And as the years go by, I am more and more willing to peer out of our jewel-blazing windows and try to catch sight of Kage’s bright hair and black, sparkling eyes.

Here is the bonfire, burning as always with all the colours of the heavens. Come and be warmed, come and be remembered.

The lights will blaze all night.