Out of all the holidays, Christmas is truly my favorite. From the hustle and bustle of our yearly family Black Friday tradition to the wrapping of gifts and decorating the house until every room feels merry, it’s a time that brings joy to the heart and past Christmases to mind.
A friend recently remarked that every square inch of our home was decorated so brightly that she wanted to refer to us as “The Family Christmas.” She asked why we felt the need to have Christmas throughout the home with a comment that “doing so much would be a chore, because at the end of the season, it all has to be boxed and put away.” Her words took me right back to where it all began, in my grandmother’s home in East Islip. Christmas was important to Nana, who hailed from Naples and referred to anyone who didn’t agree with her decorating style as being a cucuzza.
Every Christmas Eve was dedicated to my mom’s family. We traveled to East Islip from Levittown mid-afternoon, our gifts in the back of Dad’s station wagon. As we entered Nana’s home, the aroma of fried fish and fresh tomato sauce greeted us before Nana did. Perry Como crooned about heading home for the holidays on Nana’s stereo, while other members of the family helped to get the dining room prepared for a great number of guests. Nana’s home was decorated with C9 lights, from the living room to the dining room and straight through to the kitchen. Her enormous Christmas tree took up an entire corner, plus half of the front window. Cigarette smoke hung heavy in the air, everyone was talking at once, and it was wonderful. A large stuffed Santa with an equally large Rudolph was perched in the opposite corner from the tree, while every inch of Nana’s home held an ornament or Christmas scene. The creche, illuminated by a tiny white bulb, was perched on the windowsill. More C9 bulbs traveled into the den downstairs, where Dad and my uncles drank beer and played pool. Every banister was wrapped in garland. Nana had a small ceramic tree on her dresser, along with a smaller creche.
Nana’s home was decorated so well because it was a joint effort. My aunts, who lived nearby, often stopped by to help her to adorn her house in all its Christmas glory. When the season was over, they returned to help box everything back up. My mom always remarked that “many hands made light work.” For Nana and her family, Christmas decorating was a family affair.
Mom was always our “Principal Decorator of the Interior,” while Dad set up his blow-mold nativity scene and homemade manger. He often placed those awesome C9 bulbs in our bushes, which glowed brightly beneath the fresh-fallen snow. Over time, he purchased a Santa Claus blow-mold and a snowman, as well as a small blow-mold angel. After Dad passed away, Mom gifted that angel to my husband and me. Back then, Mom only adorned the kitchen and living room with Christmas cheer. Over time, her embellishments crept to other rooms, to the delight of family and friends alike.
Mom’s ability to accessorize in Christmas style is the reason why I decorate every inch of my home. Her twin bay windows hold both a nativity scene and an illuminated red truck bearing a Christmas tree. The inside of her home smells of pine from the Glade automatic freshener that releases fragrance every 18 minutes. Her bathroom, bedroom, living room, dining room and kitchen look like something out of the North Pole. It’s kitschy and endearing and I absolutely love it.
I answered my friend with an abbreviated response, which reflected the memories of my past, and how both Mom and Nana influenced my decorating style. She shrugged and mentioned that it was still a lot of work, but I mentioned that it was certainly worth the effort, especially because it brings so much joy to my family. While my husband decorates the outside, I change bedding, dining and kitchen linens and bathroom to reflect the upcoming Yuletide. This is what Christmas means to us, and it’s a joy to share it with others.
Last week, I noticed a rather large tote bag in the back of my daughter’s vehicle. I asked where she was bringing her decorations, thinking that she was decorating the classroom she had worked in for the past few weeks. She smiled and told me that her friend needed some “holiday cheer” in his apartment, and she wanted to make it look like “Christmas.” As she drove away, I smiled in my heart, for I’d passed the flag on to the next generation. I’m looking forward to seeing the pictures of her festive handiwork.
As you decorate your homes for the holiday you observe, I’d like to offer you a toast of peace and joy. May you and yours enjoy this beautiful season, and may your homes be decorated with love and memories that will last a lifetime. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and a very Happy and Healthy New Year to all.
Patty Servidio is an Anton Media Group columnist.