As I’ve mentioned before, I love the holidays. During the season when we celebrate the birth of Christ, it’s fun to pull down all the christmas boxes pulling out treasures which both make the holiday feel special but also stir up memories of christmas past. (I feel like a bell should be tolling and ghost should be manifesting in the background right now)
Usually I set up our tree first. I moved here to the arctic tundra from the moderate Pacific NW going on 13 years ago. I have always had a read tree, but in temperate and moist Oregon, keeping it fresh for the whole season was never an issue nor concern. However, here in the hinterlands, its bitterly cold (yes, at -20 a runny nose freezes) and skin witheringly dry. There was no way I was going to risk setting my house on fire with a real tree, and I was not about to give up my tradition of putting the tree up Thanksgiving weekend and enjoying it through New Years Eve. So, fake it is.
This year, however, with family in town visiting I decided to start by putting out all my room decorations. I love going through each box, for me it’s actually better than christmas morning. With each decoration I pull out that was lovingly packed the year prior, I can recall where I was when I bought it, who gave it to me or who passed it down to me. The same goes for my tree.
So, a week later, my youngest and I are dragging the limbs up from the basement and assembling the tree limb by limb. (Yes, I know there are pre-lit umbrella styles, but this one looked the most realistic 13 years ago) Then on go the lights. Now that is a chore and not fun at all. Every year they go in to the box fully lit and working, and every year I pull them out and inevitably one strand is half burnt out. I do not treasure the lighting of the tree.
But then, I pull out the boxes with our tree trimming ornaments. Every year since the children were born, I have given them each an ornament so that by the time they go out on their own, they will be able to have a head start on their own tree, filled with memories of their childhood. I love looking at each one, remembering why I chose that particular one to represent that particular year.
The photo below is of a rather special ornament. It is my great grandmother Bishops’ ornament, handed down to me by my own grandmother Evelyn. I never knew her mother, she had passed before I was born. This sweet and very fragile ornament is special to me not only from a family history perspective, but has an heirloom. It, along with a few pieces of china and an old secretary desk, made it around the cape of Africa on a steamer bound for the west coast of the USA well over a hundred years ago. Let that sink in for a moment. It sailed around the continent back in the late 1800’s/1900’s in straw filled barrels on a STEAMER ship! With all the advanced technology of today and modern transportation system, it’s amazing to me to think about the journey of this little ornament church.
I hope that as you pass through this wonderful time of the year, you are able to take the moment to pause and reflect on your history, your families history and be aware of the memories you create in your own families. Because, you see, Christmas isn’t about shopping or stuffing our faces with special libations and foods. Christmas is about the moment a very special little family was created in a very simple and humble surrounding, giving the world the best present of all. That truth helps me to keep the reason for the season in perspective.