Right after Thanksgiving, my husband and I got our Christmas decorations out of our storage building. Every year when we go through this process, I say I’m going to get rid of some of the decorations that I don’t use. Saying that, however, is just a waste of breath — because it never seems to happen.
I sort of have a tradition of decorating my deck first. I don’t really know how that came about but I always seem to do it that way. I wrap all of the deck rails with lighted garland and then I go back and put red bows on the posts. Don’t know why but that’s just how I like it.
Then when my husband has time to help me, we’ll carry that heavy artificial tree into the house and set it up. I tried a smaller tree for a couple of years and I just didn’t like it, so I went back to one of those big, heavy ones again. I’ll decorate on that tree for days afterwards — adding an ornament here and an ornament there, as the notion strikes me. I have lots and lots of ornaments and never use all of them the same year when I decorate my tree. I just use the ones I feel like using and have no particular way of hanging them on the tree. I have some ornaments that my daughter calls “antiques” because I’ve had them since before she was born. Most of the time I try to hang those where there’s less chance of them getting knocked off. Those ornaments are really nothing special other than the fact that I’ve had them so long that they now have sentimental value, if nothing else.
Some other ornaments that I put on my tree also have sentimental value because my daughter painted them for us back when she was a teenager. Some of them are cute little bears, puppies or such, but one is the Virgin Mary holding a newborn baby Jesus and I always try to put that one in a special place.
I was recently reminded of the fact that my husband and I used to always go out and choose a cedar tree off of his family’s property. When we were first married, it seemed as if we could always find a beautiful, full one that was just the size we needed. That always seemed like a special experience to me to ride with his parents “up in the country” and cut down a tree for us and one for them. It seemed, however, that over time it got harder and harder to find a tree that was filled out enough to use for a Christmas tree. That’s when we started using an artificial tree — even though I missed going out and cutting a tree down together with my in-laws.
No one is exactly sure when fir trees were first used as Christmas trees. It was probably over 1,000 years ago in Northern Europe. Some early Christmas trees were even hung upside down from the ceiling using chains, hung from chandeliers or lighting hooks. Can you imagine trying to decorate a tree if it was hanging upside down? That would be a real engineering feat, I’d say.
The first person to bring a Christmas tree inside a house may have been the 16th century German preacher, Martin Luther. The story goes that he was walking through the forest and looked up and saw the stars shining through the branches. He thought it was so beautiful that he went home and told his children that it reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas. I really love that story and it reminds us of “the reason for the season.”
There is also a legend from Germany about how the Christmas tree came into being. It says that one cold night, a forester and his family were gathered around the fire trying to keep warm. All of a sudden there was a knock on the door. When the forester opened up the door, he found a poor little boy standing on the doorstep with no one else around. He brought the little boy into his home where he was washed, fed and then put to bed in the youngest son’s bed. The next morning was Christmas Day and the family woke up with a choir of angels singing and the little boy had turned into Jesus. The Christ Child went into the garden of the cottage and broke off a branch from a fir tree and gave it to the family as a “Thank You” gift. After that, people started bringing a Christmas tree into their home to remember that special night.
In 1880, Thomas Edison put some of his new electric light bulbs around his office to celebrate Christmas. Then in 1882, a colleague of Edison’s, named Edward Johnson, strung 80 red, white and blue bulbs and put them on his Christmas tree in his New York apartment. He also mounted two additional strings from the ceiling.
In the USA, electric tree lights became more widely known when President Grover Cleveland had them put on the tree in the White House in 1895 because his daughters like them. In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge started the tradition of putting a National Christmas tree on the lawn at the White House.
Does all of this talk about Christmas trees make you want to go out and put one up if you haven’t already done so? I only put one up these days, but I used to sometimes have more than one. Back when our daughter was just a child, I bought a small tree for her to put up in her room. That worked out well because she could decorate however she wanted to and it was hers and hers alone.
I talked to a lady recently who said she loved Christmas and so she had a Christmas tree in every room. My question to her was: “Do you even have one in the bathroom?” Her reply was: “Yes, I do.” I have to say that if I tried to put a tree in our bathroom, I just do not know where I’d put it. Our bathroom is so small already that a tree in there would probably make me feel claustrophobic.
To Christians, the evergreen tree is said to be a symbol of everlasting life with God. I’m going to try and keep that in mind whenever I look at one during this Christmas season. We all get so busy that we tend to forget about what’s really important as we go into what should be a time of peace on earth and good will toward men!
Azalea R. Bolton is a resident of Richmond County, member of the Richmond and Anson County Historical Societies and co-author of the book “Just Passing Time Together.”