In Coming of Age in Samoa, anthropologist Margaret Mead coined the term “postmenopausal zest” for the creative energy that seizes women once they are freed from the responsibilities of childcare. Coming of age in New Jersey, I noticed that some of my mother’s friends, the ones with grown children, had started putting up what I have come to think of as “postmenopausal Christmas trees.” No, they weren’t decking the halls with Samoan bark cloth, but instead of hauling out the usual toy trains and macaroni angels, they were buying new and sticking to strict color palettes. One trimmed her tree all in red bows and another in silver and gold, while yet another filled her second floor bathroom with snowmen.
In our house, the postmenopausal Christmas tree, or “crone’s tree” if you prefer, remains an elusive thing. My daughters are widely spaced in age, so there’s always been a little voice in the house insisting that the Model Magic ornaments she made when she was four have to be front and center. And then there’s the cat. No, I won’t be able to put up my own crone’s tree for a while, but in the meantime, I can dream . . .
The Valkyrie Tree
The oldest valkyries were more bird than woman, lighting on the ground only in the aftermath of battle. These frightful ladies decide who will live and who will die, so the turning of the year is a good time to honor them. The Valkyrie Tree is not a spruce or a fir, but a bare birch branch hung with black felt birds, while the accompanying Valkyrie Wreath features the feathers of swan, crow, raven, and turkey (in place of the endangered eagle) bound to a base of birch twigs or grapevine. It is hung on the door at Halloween and kept up through the thirteenth day of Christmas. In place of a ribbon, there is a long strip of paper bearing, in calligraphy, a sampling of valkyrie names: Hrist, Mist, Hildr, Thrǔðr, Randgrið, Reginleif, Svanhvita, Kâra, Sigrdrîfa, Sigrûn, Ailrun, Rota, and Göll.
The Oriental Tree
The skirt is black velvet spangled with silver, and on the tree there are camels embroidered with sequins and silk thread. There are ornaments depicting the Magi against the starry skies of Bethlehem and ornate little boxes that might contain gold, frankincense, or myrrh. There is even a blown glass boy in a sparkly turban and baggy blue trousers. (He’s a real ornament, you know. Nicknamed “Little Haji,” he was misplaced during one of our moves. If you’re out there, Little Haji, please come home!)
The Hogwarts Tree
Make that “Trees,” one for each House: red and gold balls for Gryffindor; blue lights and black feathers for Ravenclaw; gold bows and black tulle for Hufflepuff; and sinuous ribbons of green and silver for Slytherin.
Of course, if you’re a woman of a certain age, you don’t need me to tell you how to trim your tree. Decorate as you will! Should your Yuletide guests dare to question your style, you can change the subject by fanning yourself with a gingerbread valkyrie and saying, “My goodness! Is it hot in here or is it me?”
Our thanks to Linda for her guest post! For more from Linda Raedisch, read her article “Spirits of Christmas: Visions in White.”