December 2017 – “The Christmas Tree”

Beyond the Christmas Story and the true meaning of Christmas—my greatest pleasure in the holidays has always been the Christmas tree. Naturally the gifts from Santa on Christmas morning were exciting as a child … but everything revolved around the tree.

In my childhood our trees were always cedar trees. As an engineer, working often out of doors, my dad knew many rural sites where he could cut a tree to bring home. He always set it up and strung the lights, while my mother, brother, and I decorated it. I still remember the colorful bulb lights and bubble lights on our tree, the shiny glass balls, some with tinsel inside, plus the special ornaments of Santa and Mrs. Claus, reindeer, stars, little drummer boys, and angels that made the tree more fun.  Draped over all were
silver icicles that shimmered in the tree lights. Most all of our early ornaments are gone now, but I still have one or two that survived the years that I treasure like a Santa in his sleigh and a small gingerbread man.

My husband J.L.’s family also put up cedar trees cut from the woods, so we continued this tradition in our early years of marriage. J.L.’s mother was very crafty—and artistic—and one of my most precious tree ornaments is one she made for us using the bride and groom from the top of our wedding cake.  She made many other lovely ornaments for us over the years—Santas, bears, decorated hats, and lacy crocheted snowflakes. All have special places on our tree every year.

I made ornaments, too, in our early married years. Few remain except some I sewed, wooden ornaments I painted, and a few glass balls I decorated. The children made lots of ornaments, too, most of paper or craft materials that didn’t last the years, except for a few hardy ones, including one the kids called “pipe cleaner man.” Often neighbors and friends gave us handmade ornaments we still have and love, also. Two special ones I cherish have my children Matt and Kate’s names on them.

My love of Christmas trees draws me to the Knoxville Fantasy of Trees event every year, held around the Thanksgiving holidays. I love to wander around the darkened convention center to see the hundreds of trees elaborately decorated, many with unique themes, and all twinkling and sparkling with lights. This is an annual event I always attend to help me get me in the mood for Christmas. There is such dazzle and diversity in the lavishly decorated trees, whether with rustic, country ornaments, beautifully hand-embroidered ones, or with arrays of candy canes and sweets—all in a dazzle of clear gold or multi-colored lights.

At home, our family tree is not as spectacular as any of  these but is covered instead with memories—the ornaments we’ve gathered over the years or the ones  others we love have made for us. Many of our decorations have special stories attached to them we love to tell again and again. Every few years I add a few special ornaments to our collection, like a group of glittery purple sequined balls, recently, and a set of shiny redbirds with feather tails.

Most of all I believe our Christmas tree reminds me of “Love.” The ornaments and twinkling lights remind me of the Christmas story … Mary and Joseph among the animals in the stable with the bright star overhead, Jesus born in the manger, the shepherds coming from the fields in awe and wonder, and the wise men traveling from far away to bring their gifts to Jesus. Our Christmas tree also represents the love of our family and the many memories of our past Christmases together. A wise quote says: “The beauty of Christmas lies not just in the date but in the feeling it gives.” [anonymous]

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