[Decorating our first tree in 1969]
I had never given any thought to what my Christmas tree says about me until I read a post by Maria Kellam, a colourist with a similar sounding blog to mine Colour Me Happy. As Maria shared her saga about her less-than-perfect tree, 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 the last customer was done on Christmas Eve. When we awoke on Christmas morning the tree would be up, decorated and have presents all around it. My parens 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 because he preferred simplicity and often viewed me as being too flamboyant. (Can you be “too” flamboyant? Isn’t flamboyant enough said?)
Over the years I began to grow disenchanted with the real tree because 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. Besides, a three-week-old real Christmas tree loses its vibrant green color, gets brittly and begins to droop.
As the children grew older and even less interested in decorating the tree than they were before, decorating the tree became my holiday focus. Although I wanted the fragrance of a real tree, I 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.
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 eventually gave up this pleasure in exchange for a perfectly shaped tree that I could control. I could decorate heavily without branches breaking and could enjoy for the whole month of December without worry about a fire.
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 though our tree is prelit with white lights I added a few more strings of multicolored blinking lights. I like fullness (are you starting to think I’m flamboyant too?)
My ornament collection is quite extensive and yet I like to add something new from the after-Christmas sales or unique items I find on vacation. My newest ornaments are a Cloissone Christmas boot ornament from China, some elongated stylized angels from Pier Imports after Christmas sale last year, two USC Santa hat ornaments 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 put up 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. I remember that one by one the wise men lost their heads, then got cracked on the sides, and eventually disappeared altogether. It’s absolutely amazing that the 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.
What does your Christmas tree reveal about you?