Putting up and decorating the Christmas tree is by far one of my most favorite Advent activities. It’s a family tradition from my side. I remember fondly the many years when we went out and cut down our own tree. We’d often do the same with my Grandma O. Once we brought the three home she’d happily sit by and watch as we decorated it. We enjoyed the old glass ornaments and she was more than willing to share the stories behind her ornaments. It was also so cozy, warm, and peaceful. The kind of memory that lasts a lifetime.
This year has a bit of bittersweetness to it. You see, my sister is engaged to a slightly off-kilter man who believes that the Christmas tree is representative of Satan worship. He points back to a few references on the Asherah poles and as far as I can tell is the only one who connects the ornaments back to the Druids (not a Winter Solstice loving people I might add). This year he’s traveling home with my sister and plans on discussing the boundaries that will need to take place once he and my sister are married. He’s got plans on asking my parents to give up the holiday if my sister and their future children will ever be able to visit us this time of year. My response? Why visit if you have such an issue with it? A good three-quarters of the year none of us have Christmas trees or round ornaments hanging on the tree. There would be far less conflict on any front if you were to visit then.
I sense conflict blowing in the wind and wonder where the boundaries for mutual respect exist. If you don’t want to celebrate Christmas, don’t come here while we’re celebrating. Right? We, however, are not to be deterred. It’s entirely unlikely that he’ll ever set foot in our home. There’s probably a zero-percent chance of it happening if they have children. Our Advent celebrations are important to us. Well, that and I think it’s rude to dictate those sorts of things to other when you’re the *guest*!
This year we resurrected the artificial Christmas tree in hopes of making our money go a bit further this year. There are too many medical bills for anything else. The kids didn’t seem to mind a bit. They were bouncing off the walls ever bit as much as they have in previous years. Instead of trudging through the snow to pick out the perfect tree they were eager to help remove the branches from the box and get it set up.
I don’t have many pictures of the ornament hanging. When it comes to decorating the tree it’s a bit like a runaway train. Once you get on it you won’t be getting off until the end of the line. The kids would come back for ornaments faster than I could get them out of the box. There was very little time for reflection as the ornaments came out. A couple for the Baby. She’s the youngest. A few more for L. Then quite a few for J. The trains we picked for him when he was M’s age and then the ornaments he picked for himself. Then Z’s growing collection of ornaments. The ones he’s picked himself and the ones others have purchased for him.
Then come the bulk of the ornaments. These ornaments are mine and each year we decorate the tree I’m amazed at how many there are. Opening up this box and putting the ornaments away at the end of the season is like opening a time capsule of my life. The ornaments I received from my parents reflective of my interests at a given point in time. The kitty with it’s red yarn ball. The chihuahua in his clay pot from when I was taking Spanish in High School. The ornament from my first Christmas. More than thirty years old and it has held up well. Sometimes I ponder packing this one away some place safe. It won’t be long and the rest of the family will start to catch up with me. I’m beginning to see why we had a second tree when we were growing up just for my parents’ ornaments.
Last, but not least, is our family ornament. The glass pickle I fondly remember hanging up on my Grandma O’s tree all those years ago. Someday I’ll have to explain it’s significance and the German tradition.
The kids are set loose to decorate as they please. There are no rules, except that for this year we need to keep the ornaments a bit higher on the tree. This is especially important with the breakable ones. M will be very interested in the tree and we need to be sure she’s safe. She won’t know to leave the ornaments be and they’ll be too pretty for her to refuse. Other than that? If they want to hang three ornaments on one branch and the vast majority of them all in one area, so be it.
At one point, when we were just about finished Z looked over to the cabinet where the Advent spiral sits and asks, “Are these supposed to be hung on the tree?” There was quite a substantial pile there. One look at the ornaments and I can tell that these are the ones I have given to L. I thought she was coming back awfully quick. Now I know why! We finished off the tree decorating with the candy canes. Then it was time to rearrange the mantle so that we could hang up our stockings a few days in advance of St. Nicholas Day.
It didn’t take long and the kids were in bed, fast asleep. While Z and I sat on the couch we gazed on the tree in all of its funky, off-kilter appearance. It looks nothing like the put together trees at the store. There’s no observable unifying theme. The ornaments are all different shapes, colors, and sizes. The only unifying theme is our family. A group of five fairly different people. The two of us who choose this family and the three that followed. It’s perfect in it’s unperfect-ness. A little bit of mess, a lot of love.