Today while David took the girls ice skating I started putting up my Christmas decorations.
When I was a kid my mother took Christmas decorating very seriously. I would leave for school in the morning and return to pure enchantment. It was like a team of elves had been there while I was gone. The house was completely transformed.
The garland wrapped around the railing had shiny red satin covered balls hanging from it. There were wreathes and nutcrackers and even decorations in the bathrooms. There was a red candle shaped like a sleigh that smelled like bayberries. We never lit it. That smell is Christmas to me, even now, thirty years later.
My dad did the lights. First he would untangle and test all 457 strands of multi-colored lights. Then he would spend five hours putting them on the tree. Every single branch was lit. He taught me that a Christmas tree should look like it grew with lights. They should be plentiful and the wires must be hidden.
One year he completely outlined the house in Christmas lights. The door, the windows, the roof. It made giving directions easy. "Just go to the house that looks like a diner. You can't miss it!"
After the tree was decorated we would go sit in the living room with all of the lights off except for the tree. There we would take off our glasses and revel in the fantastic glowing blur of the lights through our nearsighted eyes.
They taught me many practical things in my life for which I am grateful. What they taught me about celebrating Christmas however, though in no way practical, is pure magic.