The fir tree has a long association with Christianity and began in Germany almost 1,000 years ago when St. Boniface, who converted the German people to Christianity, was said to have come across a group of pagans worshipping an oak tree. In anger, St Boniface is said to have cut down the oak tree and to his amazement a young fir tree sprang up from the roots of the oak tree. St. Boniface took this as a sign of the Christian faith. But it was not until the 16th century that fir trees were brought indoors at Christmas time.  This is only one of the many tales of the origin of the Christmas tree.

Sitting here at the computer, I watch my Christmas tree glitter and twinkle a few feet away.  As long as I can remember, I have loved this tradition.  Usually up the weekend after Thanksgiving, my tree stands at least until January 2.  I want to savor every angle of its beauty.

Though not expensive, many of the ornaments are rare.  The curly ribbon that adorned our oldest son’s first Christmas tree has a place of honor near the top, right beside the paper bells that our middle son, Jakey, made in kindergarten.  On a first-grade paper ornament, Josh’s grin lacks two teeth, but a big smile and lots of glitter compensate for them.  Josh always points out the red goat that David Edgy made and gave to him years ago.  Ornaments made by Cub Scout hands or by my boys as school and Sunday school students are the most precious ones, and every year as I put up the tree, the memories rush back.

Around the tree’s ample bottom hang the less fragile ornaments—the drums, plastic angels, and shiny red apples.  Over the years, small hands could not resist the drums, and many of them came apart in the hands of my young grandsons.  A couple more succumbed to the cats’ claws.  The felines too enjoy the drums.  Fortunately, these cheap and harmless ornaments kept their attention away from the more special ones.  

The fragile ornaments hang up top out of the reach of small hands and cats’ paws. On a trip to Nebraska a few years ago, I began my collection of snowman ornaments with a hand crafted one designed by a Nebraskan artist. Not a collector of many things, I do watch for interesting snowman ornaments. Many have come from Cracker Barrel’s eclectic selection. I can’t resist checking for new ones when we travel.

Some ornaments are rather expensive by my terms while others cost practically nothing, but as I hang each one on the tree, I remember the circumstances of its purchase. The white filigree clove holder with the red bow we bought on vacation in Pensacola way back when the family was still whole.  The memories make me smile.

White wooden gingerbread men hang as a reminder of one of our favorite Christmas traditions.  Every Christmas season, we make and “paint” gingerbread people to resemble everything from snowmen to space men, cowgirls to angels.  From the oldest grandparents to the youngest child, we gather around the table to decorate our sumptuous creations.  The frosting goes on with paint brushes, making the process easier for small hands. Invariably some of the people lose arms and legs, even heads, to a child who can no longer resist the smell of his art.  As children, the boys often invited friends to help paint.  It’s not unusual for one of those grown-up friends to call now and ask, “When are you making gingerbread men?”

An assortment of cardinals, icicles, crosses, angels—even Mama’s old measuring spoons complete the tree.  In the last few years new ornaments made by the hands of my grandsons have joined the collection.  After our summer vacation a few years ago, my sister Sarah Nell and I brought home ornaments from Helen, Georgia.  Each year brings additions.

“I don’t care much for Christmas trees,” my father used to tell me every Christmas, “but yours is pretty.  It’s my favorite of all.”

Maybe he didn’t realize it, but my tree has become a record of the family.  Some ornaments bring bittersweet memories and tears while some make me laugh. But each one speaks to me of the people who fill my life with love year-round.  What a beautiful tree and a beautiful tradition!