Dad and the Christmas Tree, Part Three: Icicles or Rain?

my Christmas tree - no tinsel

I think it was in the summer of 1951 that my mother and father and I moved from Pittsburgh, Pennsyvania to Portland, Oregon, to be close to my mother’s family.  That first Christmas in the West we were still staying with my grandmother.  The next year, though, both Mom and Dad had found work and rented a nice duplex, and we were back to having our own Christmas tree.  None of us suspected the trap that was waiting for us as transplanted Easterners.

Mom and Dad invited some of my aunts and uncles to a little party to help decorate the tree.  The eggnog was being passed around, and the uncles, who were uncharacteristically hanging out in the kitchen, seemed to be having a very good time indeed.  As most of the ornaments had been hung on the tree, it was now time for the lovely thin strands of tinsel which would finish off the decoration.  And one of my little cousins asked, “Can I help put the rain on?”  The rain?  I said, probably in a snotty tone, that no one put rain on a Christmas tree.

And then the argument began.  The thin strands of tinsel that we knew back East as icicles seemed to be called rain in this strange Western city.  Of course, icicles belonged on a Christmas tree, but rain didn’t.  Wrong, shouted some of the uncles, we don’t have icicles here, but we have plenty of rain!  Why not on the tree?  My mother tried to keep the peace but soon was outshouted by her brothers, the aunts tried to distract the children from the yelling and started getting their coats on, and all of a sudden the strands of icicles /rain were out of their boxes and flying around, and not in the direction of the tree!

I think it was when some tinsel fell in the eggnog pitcher that the laughing started.  Not everyone was mollified, though, and some offended relatives left in a huff, while others helped to clean up the mess.  The question of the right name for the tinsel remained a bit of a sore point for years, though, and usually someone would bring it up every Christmas, just to see if anybody would get riled up.  As for us, we never used the stuff again.

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8 Responses to Dad and the Christmas Tree, Part Three: Icicles or Rain?

  1. MissMeliss says:

    First, thanks for your comment on my “Little House” post. Those books are written in simple language, but there’s a lot there for an adult reader, even so.

    Second, this post made me grin. We’re an icicle family ourselves – or were – we stopped using tinsel (by any name) when my mother’s only brother died. It had always been HIS job to but the tinsel on, and we just couldn’t do it.

    • bookgetaway says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, the language of the “Little House” books is simple, but it is perfectly suited to the form, don’t you think? As to the tinsel, isn’t it interesting how family traditions can be set? I can see how your family couldn’t do the tinsel any more after your uncle died. It would almost be saying that he could be replaced. And the memories would just be too much.

  2. Frank says:

    Being from the east, we’re a tinsel as icicle family as well. In our family the discussion was how to properly put the tinsel on the tree. There were two camps. One side felt you had to put one strand on at a time. Very time consuming and boring, but resulted in a better overall look in my opinion. The other side took the position that you could place multiple stands on at a time. To me that seemed to result in a clumpy look. Its been year since we put tinsel on our tree though. I can’t say that I even see it in stores any more.

    • bookgetaway says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Frank. You know, I had forgotten about the tinsel divide. I also preferred the look of one strand at a time. Wonder what ever happened to the tinsel? I haven’t seen it in stores either.

  3. Miz_hatbox says:

    Ah! Having never had a Christmas tree (nor put tinsel on a menorah) our family never had this discussion. Tinsel to me was the long shiny garlands a person wrapped around the tree. I love the idea of calling it “rain” in the Northwest. So fitting.

    Do people save the icicles/rain from year to year and put the same bits on again?

    • bookgetaway says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting! How nice to see you again!

      Yes, we used to save the icicles to use again, but probably 2 years’ use was all you could get out of them.

      As one of the other commentators mentioned, you don’t find these in stores any more. Haven’t seen them for years.

  4. Miz_hatbox says:

    Hmmm… Amazon sells them (as icicles) so I think you can find them without too much difficulty.

    Nice to see you too, and I’m glad you’re writing regularly again. Happy New Year!

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