We all have our Christmas beliefs

So I walked into the living room and there it was, glowing like a lantern in a cave.

“Oh,” I said to my talented home decorator and wife of 52 years, “how wonderful, the Christmas tree. When did you put it up?”

“Tuesday,” she said. Meaning three days ago. She wasn’t smiling.

It is just one of the pressures of the Christmas season, a wonderful yet stressful time of year. You’ve got to notice things. Suppose that someone special says, “gee, wouldn’t it be fun to have a 10-cup Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker?” You don’t shrug and think, “not really.” No, you get your butt on down to the 10-cup Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker store and buy one.

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. It also ushers in a cultural war. I am supposed to notice, turn on my heel and take my business elsewhere if a store clerk greets with “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Sorry, not going to do it. I am not into wars. I patronize a store for its selection, service and price. I will leave the sales clerk — and her employer — to her own spirituality if she will leave mine to me.

My personal Christmas pressure point resolves around the yet unfulfilled desire to win the community decorating contest. That got me to thinking about a holiday column I wrote 22 years ago. A slightly edited version follows:

We could have been on the cover of a 1956 Saturday Evening Post. It was a Norman Rockwell evening.

The family, nestled in comfy chairs anchored near the blazing hearth, gazed silently on the majestic pine and pondered private thoughts of mistletoe and Yule logs. Basking in reverie of Christmas past and Christmas present, we exchanged knowing glances when the doorbell rang.

Proud smiles tugged our lips. Surely, this would be the Community Home Decorating Contest Committee, here to tell us, at long last, our dream had been realized.

Yes, finally. After years of hard work and futile waiting, it just had to be. This year we must have won. Our subdued, tastefully dim, single string of blue lights had captured the judges’ imagination. Oh, happy days!

As always, this year we had eschewed the garish display of ostentatious brilliance, angling instead for the diminutive d