O, Christmas tree
There are many things the German people have brought us westerners. But even advanced German engineering could not have thought up or designed something as everlasting, as popular, or as full of meaning as the tradition of a simple Christmas tree.
While that tradition started there, it spread across the world like reindeer on steroids. The result shows every December as families around the world gather to choose that perfect tree, bring it home and help it feel the love. Fully adorned and with young eyes gazing upon it in anticipation and wonderment, it becomes the heart of the home at Christmas time.
For those with real trees, many an expletive has been uttered as husbands and fathers contort themselves underneath the tree to wrestle it into the stand and make sure stands straight. Once in place, the holiday can actually begin as ornaments and decorations come out of storage into the light of day, and the tree transforms into a vessel of memories and tradition.
Our Christmas tree holds memories of people who have entered and left our lives. A couple of ornaments are in memory of my father who left us in 2009.
There are ornaments to remind us of our German foreign exchange daughter who came to us in the summer of 2005 and, even though she returned to her homeland a year later, she is still an active part of our family, thanks to technology, electronics and the Wright brothers.
Several cross-stitched ornaments remind us of the birth of our children. Many others were gifts when our children were born-a mini pink stocking hat and a baby’s picture book ornament when our daughter was born, and a stuffed momma bear holding two little cub bears the year our twin sons were born, among so many Christmas keepsakes.
Ornaments made by the (then) clumsy preschool and elementary hands of our children were given to us with big, proud smiles as they brought them home from school and church.
We have an ornament that that my husband made when he was in elementary school-a candy cane holder shaped like a horse’s head, made of (now aging) red felt. It’s priceless, and so special that we have that memento of his childhood after all these years.
Both of his parents have left us now, but we have ornaments that were on their Christmas tree for years-one of them announcing their 50th wedding anniversary.
A large red friendship ornament hangs at the bottom of our tree, and was given to me a few years ago by one of my best friends who now spends her Christmas holidays in prison. It reminds me of happier times, and now it serves as a reminder that true friendship never ends-and that in the eyes of Christ, we are worth more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.
One special ornament is made out of the repair pins used after one of our sons broke his arm in kindergarten. We brought the pins home and tied a red ribbon around the plastic container they came in. That one reminds us that anything precious can be broken.
There are ornaments that boast of sisters, our farm, family, 4H, and ornaments from some of my former religious education students, which I treasure.
One ornament says simply, “Silent Night.” It gives me special joy, knowing my sister has the one much like it that hung on our family tree all the years we were growing up. She secretly shed tears of joy the year Mom gave it to her. It was always her favorite one. Mom knew.
Some of our ornament hooks were hand-made by my husband in the early days of our marriage when money was a little more scarce at Christmas. Those hooks are among the first ones hung every year as the tree is decorated, and reminds us that less really can be more.
There are ornaments that move and lights that give the tree a soft, mesmerizing glow. A handful of gifts below it remind us that we are rich, if only because we have family and friends.
It’s a wonderful life. But sometimes it takes a simple evergreen tree to remind us of it.
Karen Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at email@example.com and www.karenschwaller.com.
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