A close-up of a plain white Christmas tree ornament, hung on a white ribbon.
The tree was decorated with about two-dozen white Christmas ornaments, just simple frosted balls, but hung on the tree with loops of ribbon. — Handmade Holidays

If you’ve been around this blog for a while, then you know every year, we add an ornament or two to our tree as a way to build up our story and to turn decorating the tree into a trip through the years, with laughter, smiles, and a few tears, but a growing sense of “look how far we’ve come.” If you’ve read Handmade Holidays, that might sound familiar, and the tradition Nick accidentally starts with his bare tree that first year, when Haruto gives him a handmade ornament, is one-hundred percent cribbed from my own life, where I absolutely messed up and bought a Christmas Tree, but no ornaments, and a friend quite accidentally gave me an ornament—a small cross-stitched one—that started off the tradition.

Handmade Holidays was my love-letter to queer chosen families, and how we often make our own traditions in the face of isolation, and how those logical families (rather than biological ones) can be such a treasure to us. Nick, Ru, Phoebe, Fiona, and Matt start off a little lost, feeling very alone, but fifteen years later they’re a family with friends, partners, children, and a whole community.

When I started, that single ornament looked a little sad, and like Nick, I ended up buying a bunch of plain white frosted balls to hang on the tree. They were cheap dollar-store ornaments, but alongside tinsel and lights, they looked fine enough for my tree, though like Nick, I absolutely hung candy canes to make up the difference.

A close-up of a photo-frame Christmas Tree ornament, inside which is a photo of a husky wearing a cap and sticking out his tongue.
This year’s ornament on our tree is our Derpy Husky, Max.

I only ended up writing Handmade Holidays because of Fiona Riley and her wife, Jenn. We were at a writing retreat for Bold Strokes Books authors, and I explained the idea of Handmade Holidays to them as it had originally formed in my mind, of fifteen chapters crossing fifteen Christmases, and they loved the idea, and gave me the confidence I needed to try to pen something positive—and queer—about the holidays, which was a major stretch for me. This is also why one of the characters is named Fiona in the book, and why she ends up with a lovely woman named Jenn. I should also note Fiona Riley has a wonderful queer holiday romance novella out herself, A Christmas Miracle, which I loved.

Releasing Felix Navidad this year felt a little bittersweet (no pun intended for those who’ve read the Village novellas) as it brought to a close those group of friends, and left me feeling more than a little bit at loose ends. I’m not done with the Village, not by a long shot, but it did feel so very much like the ending it was. And I couldn’t help tucking a couple of ornament references into this book, too.

A close-up of a Mardi Gras Christmas Tree ornament, in sparkling purple, gold, and teal.
“Hans and I got this on a trip to New Orleans,” Danya said, holding up a delicate looking ornament in the shape of a Mardi-Gras mask, done in purples and golds. — Felix Navidad

Danya speaks about his Christmas vacation holidays with Hans, his late husband, and mentions two trips in particular—New Orleans, and Hawai’i—which are represented by a Mardi Gras mask and a sea turtle ornament respectively. It will likely not surprise you by this point to know those ornaments hang on my tree every year (alongside an ornament from New York, San Francisco, Edinburgh, Newfoundland, and any other place my husband and I have visited over the years—it’s one of the things forefront in my mind when we travel: finding an ornament for the tree).

Other ornaments that exist in both the fictions and the real tree in my home include the “Smiling Marshmallow on a Stick,” the “Spun Glass Orb,” from an art gallery, the “Little Crocheted Sweater” ornament Kevin gives to Felix, the “Fuscia Fuck-me Boot” Fiona wins in one of the ornament exchange games, the “Mouse and Typewriter” ornament (though mine says ‘Dear Santa’ not ‘Once Upon a Time’), and more I’m sure I’m forgetting in the moment. I do not, alas, have any of the hunky mermen (I’ve seen them for sale online, but every time I get as far as putting them into a basket, the shipping to Canada always makes me shy away again, alas).

What about you? If you have a tree in your place, do you have a themed tree or a nostalgia tree? Or do you have two trees, like we used to do here in our house? We went back down to one tree when we got our first Husky, Coach, and he claimed the space where one tree stood for his doggy bed. There’s a husky-themed or photo ornament on the tree for every year we had Coach, and those are the usual source of the tears I mentioned earlier. Still, when it’s time to decorate the tree, it’s a little bit lovely to have a reminder of him every year. And now that we have Max, there’s so much goofball energy around any endeavour he’s involved with, it takes some of the sting out of any maudlin moments, really. Hence his derpy face in this year’s ornament.

There are nearly no filler ornaments on the tree any more, and that’s another source of joy. Every year, our tree is a reminder of just how full our life is—how full my life is—and I think that, if anything, was what I wanted to do when I wrote Handmade Holidays, Faux Ho Ho, Village Fool and now Felix Navidad: show a group of queer friends filling their lives with joy.

Two men kiss beside a Christmas tree. Text reads: "Low Angst Festive MM Reads, December 15-31," and "24 romances to put the cheer in your holidays."

Speaking of low-angst holiday romances, as part of the launch of Felix Navidad, Felix is standing among twenty-four low-angst MM reads, and if you click said image above, or here, you’ll be taken right there to see what’s on offer. There’s some sizzle, some simmer, and some joy—but all come with the promise of very little angst stuffed in your stocking!

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