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Davis, California

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Column: Tree traditions

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (if we disregard those pesky finals, of course). The food comas experienced following that Thanksgiving turkey (or in my case: Tofurky), getting pushed around the mall during those early Black Friday deals and shaking out every last bit of moolah in that wallet for Cyber Monday savings: that part is over. The holiday season is here and it all starts, at least in my family, with a tree.

I’m the most spirited in my family when it comes to the month of December. It’s probably because it’s a month of no school, getting and giving presents and my birthday. Whatever the case, as soon as we decide to put up the tree, I become the house DJ, blasting “Happy Chrismahannukwanzakah to You”, much to the rest of my family’s annoyance.

Some people go out and buy a tree the day after Thanksgiving. Personally, that’s not my style. That Friday, you can find me at a store reaching over shorter people to get that hot dress in my size. After shopping, there’s no way that I would have the energy to start decorating a tree. Props to those that do.

In fact, at my house, decoration of the tree doesn’t start until after finals and often just falls around a weekend whenever we feel like getting up from watching football. It doesn’t even involve going out to buy a tree because our six-foot tall plastic tree is sitting in the basement, collecting dust.

Yes, I admit it, we cheat when it comes to Christmas trees. Rather than trying to maintain a live tree, we hook on plastic branches to a large pole and then smother the entire tree in ornaments and lights to cover the fakeness. Hey, it’s the spirit that counts, right?

The tree has become so prominent in the portrayal of Christmas in culture that we have become accustomed to it. I was watching an episode of “30 Rock” and it took some time before I noticed the gigantic lit tree behind Liz Lemon. Even though it’s just a tree covered in intricate decorations, the time of year makes it special.

Not only do we have a fake tree, but because I come from an Indian background and have been raised a Hindu, our Christmas celebrations have always been a little different. Sure, there’s Christmas music while we decorate, but my dad always interjects with requests for Indian movie songs. Ultimately, the decorating takes longer than necessary because we end up sweating it out while jumping to loud Tamil, Bhangra and Bollywood beats.

To add to this dancing, there has been a recent emergence of YouTube videos involving Indians and Christmas. If you haven’t seen it already, there’s “The 12 Days of Indian Christmas,” which I guarantee will get stuck in your head and always gets my family rolling around in laughter. Another video, part of the series “Keeping Up with the Guptas”, celebrates what they call “Vishnumas”. In any case, video-watching has become a new tradition in our tree-decorating process.

As we all know, especially from stepping onto the scale, the holiday season is a time of decadent sweets. Making cookies for “Santa” (hopefully I’m not blowing the secret for anyone) is usually a tradition for the night before Christmas, but since we usually end up decorating the tree at the last-minute, baking begins when we put up the tree. Cookie decorating tends to take place later in the evening (especially if there’s a good NFL game on), so the cookies are made at the same time as our dinner. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not always a curry on the stove, but the aromas of the spices certainly do add a unique fragrance to the decorating atmosphere. And all of that hard work is always paid off afterward when we sit down for a traditional South-Indian meal.

Traditions are a big part of the holiday season. Whether it’s lighting the menorah for Hanukkah or the kinara for Kwanzaa, blending cultures while tree-decorating like my family, or even drinking hot chocolate while reading a good book by the fireplace, get into the holiday spirit. We’ve got a whole month off. It’s time to celebrate.

MEDHA SRIDHAR really should start thinking about finals but is too caught up in the holiday cheer. Contact her at mdsridhar@ucdavis.edu.


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