It wasn’t until I read a post by another blogger about her less-than-perfect Christmas tree, that I began to reflect on my own tree story.
My mother and father always put up our tree on Christmas Eve while my two sisters and I were asleep. You see the first room of our house was my mother’s beauty shop until she finished her last customer on Christmas Eve. When we awoke on Christmas morning the tree would be up, decorated and have presents all around it. My parents must have been up all night creating this transformation and assembling toys. Even though we were asleep just on the other side of a makeshift wall my father had built to turn one big room into two, we slept very soundly in our eagerness to make Christmas arrive as quickly as possible.
As I grew up I admired the Christmas trees in movies and Macy’s window and longed to have my own Christmas tree that would be up for many weeks for me to enjoy leading up to Christmas Day. It would be a real tree, like the one I had as a child, but it would be taller and lavishly decorated like the ones in the department stores.
In the early days of my marriage our tree was indeed a real tree. I insisted on it. It was about 6-7 ft. tall, but the decorating was not very inspired. I draped the typical tinsel and hung the ornaments, but was never thrilled with the results. As I began to have children, getting the toys, books and cookies baked became more important than the tree. We always had the real tree, but while it was decorated to the kids’ satisfaction, I always longed for more.
My husband was content with our tree because he preferred simplicity and often viewed me as being too flamboyant. (Can you be “too” flamboyant? Isn’t flamboyant enough said?)
After I became a widow and moved to a new house, I began to grow disenchanted with a real tree. After a few weeks of burning lights in it and the drying effects of the fireplace, I began to worry disproportionately about the potential for fire. A three-week-old real Christmas tree loses its vibrant green color, gets brittly and begins to droop. Besides, my older two children were off on their own, and the remaining younger two were even less interested in decorating the tree than they were before. Decorating the tree became my holiday focus and project.
Although I wanted the fragrance of a real tree, I eventually succumbed to investing in an artificial tree, a 9 ft. tall one, eventually the prelit one. To maintain the illusion of the real tree I put potted rosemary around the tree. In recent years I’ve switched back and forth between the real tree and the artificial one.
After giving thought to my over forty years of Christmas tree decorating, I’ve discovered a few things my Christmas tree says about me.
1. I can be just as shallow as the next person, choosing appearance over authenticity.
Even though I love the fragrance of a real tree, I have fluctuated between having an artificial, perfectly-shaped tree that I could control and a real tree. I could decorate the artifical tree heavily without branches breaking and could enjoy for the whole month of December without worry about a fire. I took pride in decorating so well that without very close inspection, visitors couldn’t tell if it was real or not. Family and friends never know which type I will decide to use.
2. I’m influenced by beauty wherever I find it thus creating an eclectic theme.
To get ideas on decorating my tree I observed Christmas trees in stores and offices wherever I go, as well as combed the Internet. One year while spending Thanksgiving in Hawaii I spotted a Christmas tree configuration that was about 12 feet of poinsettia. Every year since then I’ve included poinsettia as part of my decorations.
Another year I didn’t want to display my Christmas cards on the wall as I once had, so I stuck them in the tree. Beautiful!
Even when I use a prelit artificial tree with white lights, still I add a few more strings of multicolored blinking lights. I like fullness (are you starting to think I’m flamboyant too?)
My ornament collection is extensive and yet I like to add something new from the after-Christmas sales or unique items I find on vacation. Some of my favorite finds are a Cloissone Christmas boot ornament from my visit to a factory in China, some elongated stylized angels from Pier Imports an after Christmas sale, two USC Santa hat ornament gifts from my son, and a Peet’s coffee mug ornament from my walking buddy. (I told you I was eclectic.)
3. Tradition and nostalgia are very important to me, but I am practical too.
Although I admire the themed trees I see in craft stores and other places every season, I prefer to display the multitude of ornaments my children and grandchildren made over the years as well as the many ornaments my coworkers gave me as gifts during twenty years at my last teaching position. Since this wide assortment of keepsake ornaments are many colors, I stick mainly to red and gold ribbon and other enhancements.
One year I tried weaving a candy-cane-striped ribbon throughout the tree, but it seemed to disrupt the look, so I removed it and used a wide gold netting instead. Exquisite!
I could never see the sense of using those Christmas tree skirts they sell in the stores. They were too small and since the gifts were going to cover them, why invest in them in something where you wouldn’t see the design. Instead, I put a large red tablecloth around the base of the tree. It did the trick and are very affordable from discount stores.
Sitting on the floor in front center of the tree is our very first nativity set. It’s 40 years old and missing the wise men. One by one, over the years, the wise men lost their heads, got cracked on the sides, and eventually disappeared altogether.
It’s absolutely amazing that Mary, Joseph and Jesus survived the rough handling of my children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren over the years. That proves that they are indeed Holy.
Even the shepherd boy, a lamb a donkey and oxen are intact. No matter what my Christmas tree says about me, the important thing is that I’m now thrilled with it each year. It always recalls many happy memories of the past, embraces the joy of the present and brings hope for the future as well.
This is my 2015 tree.
What does your Christmas tree reveal about you?
You'll enjoy similar stories in Color Your Life Happy: Create Your Unique Path and Claim the Joy You Deserve, 2nd edition. Available at Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/florabfyn and other major booksellers.