December 25, 2020
While I still enjoy the festivities around Christmas, I think what makes it special is seeing it through the eyes of a child. My favorite memories of Christmas revolve around either my childhood or the times spent with my own son as a child. We always had a real tree growing up and saved our ornaments and tinsel from year to year. I recall several years that was what I gave my parents, either an ornament or a small nativity to go under the tree. Tinsel was the big thing for my mom. When we got old enough, we were “allowed” to help put the tinsel on the tree. This was a laborious single strand at a time task. After Christmas it came off the same way and was placed back in its box, ready to be used the next year.
When I had my own family, Alex and I would spend several nights preparing the tree. We always had a real tree and would only adorn it with ornaments we made ourselves. These involved hours of DIY projects that filled the weeks before Christmas. One of my favorites (but tedious) was stringing popcorn and cranberries onto long ropes to be draped across the tree. I eventually learned to tie knots in the thread so when the line inevitably broke, we did not lose the whole strand. We also hung oranges with cloves stuck in them to produce a nice citrus/clove smell that filled the house. I remember several years we made construction paper chains of alternating red and green links. Once Alex was in school, we had the addition of the “art” projects that hung proudly among the rest. It was never about what the tree looked like. It was about spending time together.
When Alex no longer lived with me, I quit decorating a tree. I still liked the natural trees better than artificial. The joy of decorating a tree became more like a waste of time and money without the camaraderie created by decorating together. As I got older, I again began to decorate the inside of my house for the Christmas parties I would host. This initially included a tree, but later I came up with an alternative, a Christmas tree cactus. This began as a barrel cactus wrapped in a small string of lights. I also found tiny Christmas balls to hang from the spines. My Christmas cactus was another of the casualties with my move to Kansas. Sadly, it did not survive the first winter.
Thoughts: My childhood memories are one of the things that allow me to relate so well to the tree decorating scene in, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” As George wallows in sorrow, little Pete puts tinsel on his head. My mom would have been aghast as he put clumps of strands on his dad’s head rather than placing them one at a time. I hope you have good memories of Christmas’ past and are finding new ways to celebrate socially distanced this year. Melissa and I are exploring ways to spend time with family through media even while staying apart. I wish you all a Merry Christmas! Change is coming and it starts with you.