When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.Matthew 2:1-12
I have always thought that a Christmas Tree – or at least a real one, festooned with personal decorations – can say a lot about a household, or the family that lives there.
Looking at someone’s Christmas Tree is a lot like perusing their bookshelves, or family photo albums, maybe even the attic.
For us the tree is kind of like an archaeological dig on a stick. Live or artificial, real or everlasting, trees always tell a story. Or, if there is no evidence of story on somebody’s tree then that definitely says something too.
“Live” or artificial?
I used to be snobbish about wanting a “live” tree. But then I realized no Christmas tree is alive so much as it is “recently killed.” I still remember the year we paid extra for one still in its root ball, so we could plant it in the New Year. But instead of saving a tree and reducing our carbon footprint, we just watched it die slowly in the back garden before the carcass eventually found its way to the side of the street.
So now we have this really good-looking artificial tree and this year – with all the “supply chain” issues – we saved literally hundreds of dollars by pulling our 2018 model out of the attic for its third of many more to come curtain calls.
I featured some of the ornaments in an earlier post – “The Solution to Darkness is not Artificial Light” – but today’s look at the tree is from a different perspective.
Back when we lived in Brandon, at the height of Rebekah’s “Throw caution to the wind and ramp up the festive bling” period, we had multiple trees and more than enough ornaments to fill them all to overflowing.
So today, now that we have just the one moderate-sized tree, the decorating process is less thematic and more emotional. Rather than a carefully calibrated plan, we simply responded to ornaments “in the moment” and put them on the tree accordingly.
We do have a few guidelines, such as angles, stars, and more religious ornaments towards the top (sacred), and the less spiritual variety lower down (secular). This is the time-honored principle that led our son Andrew – a pre-schooler at the time, testing out his growing vocabulary – to tell dinner guests one night that, “Mama and daddy put sacred ornaments at the top, and the sexual ones at the bottom.”
Like I said, the best trees are archaeological digs on a stick and there are always hundreds of great stories.
Another factor guiding this year’s tree was the age old, “I wonder where the box with ______ and ______ is?” Followed shortly after with, “I’m not going back up into the attic…”
So that’s why my favorite squadron of a dozen flying crystal pigs are nowhere to be seen this year. Ditto the crystal icicles.
When the pigs do all show up we have enough pig-themed ornamentation that – more than once – they actually had their own tree. The backstory to the pigs is Rebekah’s dedication to the animals through many years of Heifer International Christmas Markets, especially at FPCBrandon. This year we have continued the tradition by gifting piglets through the Presbyterian Hunger Program.
“Jesus came for all the ornaments”
My final note on tree decorations references another favorite story from In My Heart I Carry A Star. The short version is this: each year we gift our good friends Tim and Kelly Black with a uniquely hideous, grotesque, tasteless ornament. The story behind this tradition is worth its own post, and here it is – (Jesus Came for all the Ornaments).
But here is this year’s contribution. Lovely, isn’t he? You’re welcome!
Seriously, though, Christmas Tree ornaments are all about story. If you haven’t thought about it before, take some time this year to write the backstory of your favorite ornaments, and make a collection of “family lore”, along with a photograph.
Peace on Earth. Good will to all People. Glory to God – DEREK