Putting up our Christmas tree is one of our biggest and most favorite Christmas traditions; it always goes up the first weekend of Advent. To quote Clark W. Griswold, “This tree is the symbol of the spirit of the Griswold Family Christmas”. Just change the name to Hanson, and you will have an accurate summary of how we feel about our Christmas tree.
Everything about our tree focuses on family. We go pick out our tree with family, not just our immediate family of four, but normally with my grandmother, my brother and parents. Sometimes my in-laws join us. It’s a time of laughter, and a brief pause in our busy lives, to enjoy time together.
We decorate the tree as a family, with my grandmother joining in on the fun. We put on Christmas music, or a movie and go to town turning the living room upside down with ornament boxes and tinsel and lights. The children bounce off the walls with excitement. It’s a blast.
A week or so ago I saw a post on Facebook, where someone mentioned that their tree told a story, the story of their family. I thought it was a nice sentiment, “liked” the status, and carried on with my Facebook surfing (or whatever the “hip” term is today), without giving it much more thought. However today, as we decorated the tree, I really stopped to look at the ornaments. I took time to think about what they came from, and the memories they carried with them. I suddenly knew exactly what the woman was talking about – our tree does tell a story, the story of our family. In fact, parts of our tree span several generations. I have ornaments that the children’s great-great-grandmother crocheted over 70 years ago!
Our tree took on new meaning today, as we really talked about the history that our tree tells. We started a tradition years ago, that every time we go away on vacation, we buy a Christmas ornament from that place. Today, we took the time to reminisce about those vacations – our honeymoon, a trip to Halifax for our daughter when she was sick, family vacations to New Hampshire, Boothbay, Maine and Prince Edward Island, day trips to St. Andrews.
We remembered our own childhood traditions, and we remembered people no longer with us. We remembered memories made with the children, as we hung the many handcrafted ornaments; ones that were given as gifts, ones that I made with the children for fun, and gingerbread men that were made just recently during a homeschool field trip to Kings Landing.
We remembered family milestones, and just how far my husband and I have come from our days as a “family” of two. We laughed as we tried to remember what it was like when it was just the two of us. We did our yearly tradition of hanging our two namesake ornaments side by side on the same tree branch together. The snowmen are discolored – they’ve had some rough times, they don’t look the same as they did when they were newly given to us, but they still hang smiling, side by side, every year together. I figure they’re a good symbolic representation of Mark and I!
Of course, remembering family milestones, certainly led us to remembering the two biggest milestones of our lives! There were the typical Baby’s First Christmas ornaments that were given to us, and then special ones we picked out ourselves. There was also the family ornament from the year we finally became our family of four.
Even the tree skirt for our tree holds memories. I made it myself, while I was pregnant with my son. I remember wanting something that would fit into a home filled with children’s laughter and Christmas spirit. It’s not fancy, and far from perfect, but it was made with an expectant mother’s love.
Hundreds of ornaments are hanging off our tree, and hundreds of memories with them. They are a crazy, eclectic, mix-matched assortment. They are not hung perfectly, they’re not evenly spaced – in many places they’re bunched together and overlapping, but that’s okay. We call our life crazy and chaotic, it’s only fitting that our tree represent that!
I’m so thankful for the new perspective on our Christmas tree. While we have always enjoyed it, it has given a new depth and meaning to the tradition. What better time of year than Christmas, to take time to reflect on the blessings you’ve been given in your life?