Those of us that grew up with something resembling a Christian background are likely to have a Christmas tree up this time of year.
While not religious the tree is the center of familial celebration for the Christmas season. Some of the traditions go back a thousand or more years, while the modern tree is straight from Victoriana. Well by the way of Germany to Queen Victoria’s home.
There is in fact something charming about bringing the forest inside and placing trinkets on the branches, covering it with lights and fighting the cat off of it.
Growing up we did not have a lot of money, so the tree was always an exciting extravagance that came before Christmas. Most years we went into the national forest and found a tree to bring home, often it was a family outing with boots, scarves, and frozen fingers. Our dogs would act like maniacs in the snow and our little kid dreams always wanted to bring home a tree in the 10′ to 15′ range, when our ceilings topped at 8′.
At times the tree was a little sad and bare, but somehow it didn’t show too much when we added some tinsel and a mess of ornaments. There were clay hands, broken snowmen, and felt reindeer that made the tree look like an explosion of the worst crafts known to 90s children. Mom also had the “Special” ornaments that were more fragile and special, they always made it to the top of the tree where no child nor puppy, nor kitty could aim or maim them.
There were years that things went awry, like when the cat killed the nativity in an epic crash that involved a tasseled table runner, and it all landing on the Siamese’s head. Only Jesus made it out alive. Then there was the year that my sister’s and I took ornamenting the tree on ourselves, unaware of our mother’s awareness on evasive placement, and the litter of puppies ate all the wood ones on the bottom foot of the tree.
All around though, our tree was our own, and each year was looked on with excitement. It was never because we got new ornaments, or a new tree, it was because we got to relive all our old memories and all the ornaments that brought as joy and wonderment. We had crystal ballerinas, glass bells, and whimsical forest creatures.
As an adult I learned that people buy new trees, new ornaments, new decorations, and have a new theme every year. It enhances the general Martha Stewart nature of a home, it’s clean and happy, and photogenic. In the age of Instagramming, YouTube Stars, there is definitely an appeal. I like a home of clean lines and design as much as the next 20-something, but not when it comes to my tree.
This year our fake tree is on its last leg, there are metal-plastic branches missing the it is permanently bent, with many branches unable to hold bigger ornaments. We only paid $20 for it five years ago, so it makes sense that the 6′ Family Dollar mess is falling apart. This year is its last, but there is something about it that brings up an immense amount of sentiment. It was the first tree I bought as an adult, and not another family hand-me-down, but what decorates the tree is the better story.
Each ornament has a tale. There is the carousel horse I have had as long as I can remember, a 25 year old fragile plastic white horse with black hair. There is a copper ornament with a cutout elk, announcing many weekends spent in Rocky Mountain National Park. For my step-daughter there are My Little Pony’s and a plush fox. The newest ornament members include a pair of hedgehogs commemorating our marriage this year, and a fat clay dolphin from Mexico.
Each year Ryan, Lily, and I have been playing house, I have bought Ryan and Lily an ornament, something to remember the year or just something they like. Ryan has received Yoda, a Maneki-neko cat, and this year a spaceman. Lily has a Lenox Elsa, a parrot and this year will be the dolphin and a miniature sombrero. There is a wood cat for when we adopted our cat, and a groom from my bridal shower.
It looks like a mess, to be honest, it should not be in a magazine, or even an Instagram post, and the cat hates that it took over some of his prime sunbathing room. Yet it’s ours, a tree full of baubles to celebrate our lives, and the gifts from our families to get started on our own. Maybe I’m more sentimental this year because we are officially wed, but all around I love that we have such an ugly tree, and the joy of decorating it each year.
Maybe the best part is sharing this with Lily, we decorate the tree together, pulling out our boxes and deciding what makes it on the tree. Each year she gets more that are hers, and when she moves on to college or her first home, they will go with her, pieces of our home, so that she too can buy her first tree and start creating her own ugly Christmas Tree.