O Christmas Tree

‘Tis the season, and I am approaching it with caution.

Oh, Christmas is a glorious holiday, that is true. Who can deny that carols are heart-warming; and decorations, merry and bright, evoke childhoods and Santa Claus and families celebrating joyfully? For some, even those who understand the reason for the season, however, all the hoopla can be overblown and downright overwhelming.

I am one of those people. Spent Christmas after Christmas hoping to see all the relatives and trying to please both sets of families. It should have been easy; my husband and I grew up six miles from each other, and our parents still live there. But it wasn’t. I suffered from anxiety every year.

Then I looked around and discovered something that helped me to make up my mind about my course of action—to take back Christmas.

Churches and non-profits scramble from the beginning of December to fill the stockings of the less fortunate, to provide Santa Claus needs and wants to these same folks, and to feed hungry people. The efforts are valiant. I daresay, not a single angel gets left on trees. I know deep in my heart, however, that millions of children all over the world get passed over by Santa Claus. I wonder why in the world we set kids up for such disappointment year after year. Why is feeding people a special Christmas meal so important as opposed to making sure people eat adequately all year long? And then I asked myself the final question, “Is this the way Jesus would want His birthday celebrated?” With His humility, His profound calling to feed and clothe the needy, I think He would be embarrassed.

So I eased out of it. The first casualty was Christmas Day. No more traveling and visiting anyone that day. It was a day of rest—a day to stay home. We still bought presents but cut down the gifting list very small. For a couple of years we dug small cedars dotted around the farm to use as our Christmas tree. My husband was happy to oblige; he didn’t enjoy hauling the large artificial tree that came with us from Alabama any more than we enjoyed piling it on with lights, balls, ornaments, and strings of gold and red beads. We loved the effect but realized it was fleeting for the work involved. The cedar trees we laughingly dubbed “Charlie Brown trees.” They were imperfect and scraggly. But they were simple and just fine for us.

Next we chose squatty ones, and I propped them up on tables, buying new and simple ornaments and leaving the hundreds collected over the years packed away in the attic. Oh the freedom of not unpacking that attic!

After a couple of years, the pressure was eased, but Christmas still overwhelmed me. So, I quit decorating. I shunned Christmas music. I needed a breather, and I wondered if it would be forever. My family, frustrated with the pressures of the holidays, gladly welcomed my break. They only grudgingly helped with the tree anyway. And, no one, save my husband and me, ever stuck it out to take the darn tree down.

In October of this year, while shopping in October at TJ Maxx, I spied a cluster of tiny mercury glass ornaments. I touched them. They had a little clank when jostled. I began to wonder, After three years, can I handle Christmas again? Has the hiatus been long enough? I bought those ornaments, knowing I could return them by the first of December if I chickened out.

I pinned tree photos on Pinterest, thinking that the smaller squatty firs, decorated plainly with my mercury ornaments as a base, could be pretty. I remembered a small box of vintage glass ornaments I had kept from my grandparents’ attic. They would be used, imperfect, and downright interesting. I attended my friends’ church bazaar and found two more boxes of vintage ornaments, mainly silver, whose patinas were worn beautifully. These cost me $1.00. I was thrilled. I considered a handful of favorite blown glass ornaments like my chimney sweeper and cowboy in the attic. They would provide just the right touch and could be repacked with the new “old” balls.

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The Sunday after Thanksgiving, two of my daughters, my husband, and I went Christmas tree shopping. It took only minutes to choose the fir we wanted. It cost a whopping $29.00.  My youngest daughter, not even realizing the simplicity I craved, asked for old-fashioned colored lights. This was an excellent idea! She seemed to be into the experience on her own. Then I pulled out the camera. We caught of few smiles, but mainly there were groans and “Don’t put this on Facebook!” Still, we found ourselves having fun.

There are three weeks until Christmas. I will not be shopping anymore. A couple of trips to Christmas-Explosion-Piled-to-the-Ceiling Sam’s, Michael’s, and Hobby Lobby left me panicked. Hearing the Beach Boy’s Little Saint Nick at two different TJ Maxxes made me want to pull my hair out. So, the odds and ends I have already picked up during the year will be supplemented by online buys. But, I finished decorating our tree today, and it makes me happy. I pulled out my husband’s painted bowling pin soldier just because he heartens me. I hung some simple wreaths. The idea of packing this stuff back in the attic does not overwhelm me. I think I can do this Christmas thing this year.

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Someone posted on Facebook the various Pagan traditions that we incorporate into Christmas. The tree and its decorations, mistletoe, gifts, even date center on Pagan rituals. (Historians have placed Jesus’ birth at sometime in the summer. Pope Julius I in 350 A.D. combined Pagan—the Roman winter solstice—and Christian festivals making the sun and the Son one and the same.) I’m sure there are more Pagan traditions in our lives than some would ever want to know or admit to knowing. I wonder if the Christian and Pagan traditions had not been merged would we have ended up with such a colossal hullabaloo.

Someone told me once I was bah humbug about Christmas. This may be so, but I have a feeling that if Jesus were alive today, He would most likely share my sentiments even as He sympathized with retailers who depend on a crazy large shopping volume for Christmas.

For us, at least by stopping the madness for a few years, we can once again appreciate the small things. Like my wee tree.IMG_2928

 

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5 Comments

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  1. 1
    Amanda Ashworth

    Very thought-provoking. Typically, the first of December is when people are unpacking their Christmas decor. There are photos all over facebook. People putting up the tree, lights, wreaths, and stockings. It just so happens that we are packing our entire house up to move. It feels a bit strange, honestly. We won’t be getting our decor out this year. We will be celebrating Violet’s first Christmas in Tennessee and enjoying other people’s beautiful decorations and trees. I’ve always longed for a real tree. Hopefully we can find the time to come see yours!

      • 3
        Sonya Spencer

        Oh but your tree is special, and so are you! Merry Christmas and God bless you. Love the story. There are some who do try to help all year and not just at Christmas. Praise God for them. Overwhelmed is how I feel sometimes. I glad you have found your way back to Christmas and just the way you like it.

  2. 4
    Angie Quillen

    Emily, We must be cut from the same mold! Christmas has overwhelmed me for years. There are too many expectations! Love your “O Christmas Tree” confessions and I agree that Jesus would be saddened by the way we celebrate His birth. I love that you write from your heart.

    Angie

    • 5
      Emily

      Thank you, dear Angie. I cannot but help to be honest. I just don’t know how to write any other way. Take heart! Other people surely are overwhelmed by all of the Christmas extravaganza. Somehow, I hope the next generation will understand that people can go overboard and must step back and regroup. Otherwise, I don’t see how our beloved traditions can remain.

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