Tree decorating yields fertile finds in memory bank

“O Christmas tree O Christmas tree you stand in splendid beauty!” (Did you sing that as you read it?)

This year is a bit different with fewer presents under the tree for many, and the fact that a lot of us also have rapid antigen tests under them as well in preparation for possible yuletide visits.

Regardless, everyone has different holiday and Christmas tree traditions (including not having one at all). My traditions started with ones from my parents and grandparents, and have morphed over the years.

I might call my tree a snowman travel memory tree. It wouldn’t win any home décor magazine contests, but it’s not about pleasing others. (Even my tree has lost that need over the years.)

Here’s how the tree ritual goes at my house, whether or not rum and or eggnog are involved.

First off, I haven’t gotten a real tree in a number of decades. (My pride stops me from saying just how many.)

I enjoy the time our family takes hulking the huge box from the crawl space, putting it together, and fluffing the branches to pine-like perfection.

One year, a kitten climbed up the tree, and broke a couple of the branch holders, so now there is red Tuck Tape holding a couple of branches in place. Others may have thrown out the tree for being broken, but setbacks are the beginnings of comebacks, even for trees in my house.

The old, coloured bulbs that would heat up were replaced years back with small white LED lights. This also prompted the end of the decorations that would spin due to the heat emitted by the old bulbs. (I’m sure that firefighters everywhere breathed a sigh of relief with the anti-incendiary progress there.)

Next, we drape silver tinsel like snow on the boughs. We didn’t take on my mother’s tradition of hanging tinsel “icicles” as a tree’s finishing touch after watching more than one cat with one protruding from their posteriors in the distant past.

Then, the matching base decorations are spaced out on the tree. I’ve stuck with the classic silver and navy glass decorations that I bought my first year of adulting. I don’t need more, and new, I can be quite happy with what I have, and appreciate it year after year.

Now, the snowmen decorations get spread out throughout the tree. My talented ex-mother-in-law crafted one of my favourites. My tree-topper is always a snowman, and this year he has a comically placed light right between his legs.

Then out come the Christmas decorations from all of our trips. Each country or major city we’ve visited has at least one souvenir decoration. As I write this, I see ones from Sweden, Estonia, Ireland, Barbados, South Dakota, Tortola, Puerto Rico and Aruba. Often, we can’t find a decoration per se, so we buy kitschy keychains to adorn the tree (like the poker chip and craps die keychains from Monaco, and the Eiffel Tower one from Paris).

We usually put our most recent trip decorations on last, and this year there were two decorations from our trip last summer to Newfoundland. (It’s a bonus that the sea urchin decoration that we got from Dildo is also a snowman.)

We get to reminisce as we hang the trip decorations, with a favourite memory. Sometimes there is lament as the person we travelled with is no longer part of our brood, but they do say that grief is the price of love. Not dissimilarly, with travel as limited as it is, we could look at these travel memories with sad longing, or with gratitude. I choose gratitude.

Whether you celebrate with a Festivus pole, a menorah, a kinara, a fake or real tree, something else, or nothing at all, I wish you the joy, peace, and hope that I feel staring at my Christmas lights this holiday season.

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