by Syd Brinkman
As I’ve been thinking about the Advent season, Christmas time and this blog, I realize I’ve also spent a great deal of time preparing and thinking about the tree-better known as The Christmas Tree.
Its beginnings are as ancient as the 15th and 16th centuries in Europe. One tree could assume many rites of passage depending on the country, family wealth or religion. A decorated tree might play host to the apple, signifying the story of Adam and Eve. Tree branches were lit with candles and holders clipped to its branches. The treetop glowed with a family star decoration.
Many villages hosted dances around the tree, and I can only imagine how many young couples were gazing at a decorated tree with wonder and innocence in their new married lives. Candy canes and O Tannenbaum are familiar down through the ages.
In these days we might attend a Festival of Trees. The lighting ceremony of the tree in Rockefeller Center, New York, would be grand to see. We can purchase a skimpy “Charlie Brown tree,” a flocked tree, a pre-lit tree, a silver tree with a colored revolving wheel or an artificial tree.
A real Christmas tree
All of these choices are wonderful, but in my opinion, there’s always a place in my home for a real Christmas tree.
I could tell you about its many functions after I’ve finished using it to decorate my home: mulch, or firewood, or habitats for nature. But that’s never been what the tree means to me.
In the home I grew up in there was a real tree in the living room. That’s the way it was, and it didn’t change for years. My father brought two ornaments, blue glass deer, to that tree from his home as a boy. It was always a thrill to unwrap those deer and hang them on the tree. The tree in my parents’ home had the large bulbs on a cord that offered an almost blinding color but a beautiful glow.
My husband brought to our family the candle holders that clip on the branches which hold real candles. I put candles in them, clip them to the branches but never light them (I don’t need to test the household insurance). I’ve changed the tree decorations many times in 30 years but never the tree itself. It is a real evergreen, it smells like evergreen, the branches become brittle, the ornaments droop on the branches after 5-6 weeks, the needles fall, it has been anchored to the wall and held steady with a log chain but if that’s all we ever have for memories, for family tradition, then that is enough.
One tree has given so many memories to our family. It continues to be the one tradition that our children hold dear for their own families. I weep when I think of all the gifts one tree can give to families of the past, present and forevermore. How simple, how real.
What is your Christmas tree tradition?
Syd Brinkman served on the churchwide executive board from 2009-2014. She reports that she searched many years to find a gift for the tree: a cast-iron tree stand so its trunk stands straight and tall! This Throwback Thursday blog first ran in December 2011.