This year I finally have a Christmas tree.
When I was a child, my family always had a Christmas tree. For many years we used an artificial tree. When I was (I think) in middle school we began buying our trees at a tree farm in South Carolina. My parents, sisters, and I would all get into the Chevy station wagon and drive to the farm. Near the entrance there was a line of sample trees showing the types of trees available. We would find seats on a flatbed trailer covered with bales of hay and pulled by a tractor. It would take us to the section of the farm for the type of tree we wanted. After examining the options we would choose a tree. An employee of the farm would cut it down and pull it through a machine which would cover it with a plastic wire mesh for the drive home. We would then tie the tree to the luggage rack and take it home, stopping for a meal along the way. It was always a fun trip. When I was in college my family still bought trees at this farm. I would insist that they wait until I was home from class before they went so that I could join them.
After we set up the tree inside we would bring out our lights and ornaments. We had a large collection of ornaments dating back many years. We had so many that the tree would look cluttered if we used all of them. Many of them had stories which brought back memories. It was always fun to decorate the tree.
Ever since I moved away I have not had my own Christmas tree. When I lived in a dormitory I did not have space for one. For a while after that I did not think much about getting a tree. In recent years, however, I wanted one. I tried to buy one last year, but they were too expensive. This year I found a cheap artificial tree with pre-strung lights. It is short, narrow, and does not have many branches, but it is a decent tree.
I began decorating it with a few items scattered around the house which had personal meaning. One of my favorite decorations is this paw print. The vet made it just before Oscar was euthanized. Oscar impacted me more than any other pet, and losing him was hard. I was very happy to finally display this paw print as it deserves to be displayed in a prominent place near the top of the tree.
During the Christmas season when I was a child my grandmother (on my mother’s side) would place two elves on her mantelpiece representing my older sister and me (her two oldest grandchildren). She never had one for my other sister. Maybe she was not yet born when my grandmother bought the elves. She also did not have elves for my cousins. When my grandmother died my sister and I kept the elves. You cannot see it in this photo, but the white strip holding his hands has a letter ‘H’ written in pen by my grandmother to represent my first name. Until now it has been on my bookcase, and it will return there when Christmas is over For now, however, it will serve as a fitting decoration on my tree.
In my grandmother’s later years she had a basket of Beanie Babies. The shark, named Crunch, was always my favorite from her collection. After she died, my sisters and I split her collection, and so I kept the shark. Like the elf, I usually keep it on my bookcase, and it will return there after Christmas.
A year or two ago my church distributed some aluminum Christmas decorations made overseas at a mission field. This is the first time I had a place to hang it, and so I could not leave it out.
For fun I bought a few Hallmark ornaments from some of my favorite childhood stories. I enjoyed watching many Peanuts films, and so I bought Snoopy when I bought the tree. Over the next few weeks I bought a few more. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is a classic film, and so I had to buy Charlie Brown holding his small tree. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with Burl Ives and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss are also classics, and so Bumble the Abominable Snowman and the Grinch make fitting additions to my collection.
My mother collected Dickens Village ornaments. After she died my father let my sisters and I split her collection. For years I had no place to display them and so they remained in storage. Last year I displayed them for the first time on the carpet. This year the space next to the tree seemed appropriate.
As I understand, all pieces from the Dickens Village collection are limited editions. My pieces are the following: The Cottage of Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim, Dursley Manor, Old Michael Church, and Kings Road Cab. I have not added any to the collection I received from my mother, but maybe someday I will to continue her tradition.
Another favorite decoration sometimes relaxes under the tree. For most of the year Arwen usually spends almost all of her time outside, but now that the weather is colder she is spending more time inside with me. I have another blanket on my recliner which is exactly like the one I placed under the tree. She loves to sleep on that blanket, and so I placed this one under the tree hoping she would sleep here.
I decided not to throw on any random decoration just to cover the tree. I decided instead to add decorations that carried some personal meaning, whether the were part of my family’s history or stories I enjoyed as a child. This is my first Christmas tree as an adult, and so on the one hand I am starting a new personal tradition. On the other hand, I am also carrying on some old traditions. I do not have many ornaments, but each one was carefully chosen.