To some people, a Christmas tree is just a tree.
It’s something we put up once a year for 25 days or so. We slap some lights on it and hang pretty ornaments off the branches. Some of those ornaments are shiny and fragile; can never be touched. Others are special and unique– homemade ornaments that flood your emotions when you unwrap them every year.
For me, I experience all of these feelings when it comes to Christmas time, but I didn’t always appreciate Christmas the way I do now.
When I was a little girl, my dad would take me to this huge Christmas shop to browse the aisles. This place had everything Christmas: lights, blow-up Santas and Frosty, and any type of decoration you could want. Every year we would go and pick something out to add to my dad’s collection of outside decorations. Some years we left the store empty-handed; my dad would tell me he didn’t see anything he liked or that we would come back another time, but I knew it was because my parents were short on cash. It wouldn’t matter if we left with a five dollar string of lights or nothing at all; I was awed by the magic that was Christmas Land.
The Friday after Thanksgiving, like clock-work, we would begin to set up our yard with those lights and blow-up decorations. I felt so special handing my dad the miles and miles of light-strings, and it was like a Clark Griswold moment when it was all finished (minus the failed attempts of power). My dad’s smile was brighter than any of those Christmas lights combined.
And then there was the Christmas tree. As I got older, I got annoyed with helping decorate the tree. It just wasn’t something that I enjoyed because as an angsty teenager, I didn’t want to waste time decorating a silly tree. I would grumble my way through the process, but somewhere in between my cruddy attitude and actually enjoying looking at all the ornaments, I noticed how my father enjoyed the process of putting up our Christmas tree.
I can still remember how my dad would go through each ornament and would study it before handing it to me to place on our tree. We mainly had homemade ornaments collected throughout the years from my sister and I. There were a lot of “My First Christmas”, popsicle-stick trees with way too much glitter, and other messy but very meaningful ones that my dad observed and studied very intently. I had no clue why he cared so much about these things until now.
Now that I’m older and have children of my own, I can understand the feelings behind a Christmas tree and those ornaments.