If you live in the United States, Christmas is a time for decorating, whether or not you personally celebrate it. While I understand some people’s discomfort at the ubiquity of Christian celebration, I personally enjoy hanging ornaments on Christmas trees. As such, I was happy to volunteer when the Rockville city government offered the Bicycle Advisory Committee a chance to decorate a tree as part of the Glenview Mansion’s annual display.
Unlike an ordinary government building, the Mansion is a beautiful 19th century house. While it was once someone’s home, now it mostly hosts concerts, art shows, and charity fundraisers. The Christmas trees are only part of the holiday décor, with lights, ribbons, and other accoutrements spread throughout the building. Besides the Bicycle Committee, about ten other community organizations decorated trees, from the Girl Scouts to the local theater troupe.
Our tree turned out to be both prominent and eclectic. We ended up with one of the best spots in the building – right next to the front door, almost impossible to miss. As for the decorations, I admit that I was a little nervous. We had discussed our decorating strategy at previous meetings, but the collection of ornaments was pretty scarce. I thought about bringing the few bicycling ornaments I own, but they were still buried in the basement. Instead, I showed up with nothing but a pair of scissors and a bicycle magazine. Considering that I’m a distinctly uncrafty person, I didn’t have a lot of confidence that we could make our tree look like it was decorated by Martha Stewart on two wheels.
Fortunately, my fellow Bicycle Advisory volunteers had a more innate sense of design than I do – not like it’s a particularly high bar. One member made adorable laminated ornaments from drawings. Another brought his own personal collection of bicycling ornaments, which was quite substantial. Someone else donated old bicycle parts, including chains. From there, one of the craftier folks thought up the bright idea to tie ribbons to the chains and then use them as garland. The ankle reflectors that our police department are giving out became ornaments when we wrapped them around little gold decorations that said “Peace.” I personally got to work cutting out Bike Maryland spoke logos from their clever postcards, taping them back-to-back, punching a hole in them, and running ribbon through the hole.
In addition to the ornaments, the Committee’s chair, Nancy, visited the mall and bought just about anything bicycle-related she could find. From hand towels to books to t-shirts, we had a lovely assortment of presents under the tree that would put a smile on any bike geek’s face. (Including the Bike Snob’s book!)
While decorating a Christmas tree may not have as much of an impact as organizing a well-attended community ride or hosting a safety class, I think these sort of activities are essential to good activism. Much like marching in the Memorial Day parade, participating in these events show how bicycling is part of the fabric of our community. Instead of people thinking of bicyclists as rule-breaking scofflaws or snobby uber-athletes, it shows that we’re a group devoted to benefiting our neighbors. Of course, it would be the best if cycling was so ubiquitous we didn’t need to be a “special” group at all. But until that day, I enjoy the fact that the town appreciates our group enough to offer us these opportunities.