Why Bother Preserving Christmas?
The aroma of freshly cut fir trees signaled the start to the jolly holiday season in our home. Every year, in mid-December, a few siblings and I accompanied Dad on a hunt for the perfect Christmas tree.
The Perfect Tree
First, he drove to the different tree lots and read the hand painted plywood signs advertising their prices and then returned to the lot with the best deal. Climbing out of the warm car and into the Midwest winter air, I’d follow my family along the snowy path and into the stand of freshly cut saplings. Their branches brushed up against my coat and filled my nose with the distinct scent of the woods. Dad always calculated the height and noted the fullness of branches of each of the trees someone suggested to be the “perfect” one until we all agreed on the best one. Then Dad tied our treasure to the top of our car and drove the jolly lot of us back home. Later, after the whole family adorned it with brightly colored lights, mismatched ornaments and tinsel, the season of Christmas, like the smell of pine, settled down around us.
But the first Christmas after my father’s death, all of that changed. Instead of a freshly cut tree, my mother purchased an artificial one. I stood by and watched when one afternoon in mid-December, she enlisted the help of my brothers. They hoisted a large package from the back of her car and carried it into the dining room. They tore open the box and dumped its contents onto the floor. Green branches of wood, wire and plastic spilled out into a pile. Ignoring the directions, my brothers assembled it, secured it in the tree stand and scooted it into a corner.
Mom strung the lights, hung the mismatched ornaments and showered it lightly with tinsel. All the while, I stood with disdain at the artificiality of not only the tree, but of a mother who insisted on keeping Christmas alive in our home.
Packages in red and green paper and tied with matching bows appeared under that ugly tree. Festive plates of cookies delivered by neighbors lined our kitchen counters. Christmas carols played on the stereo and the Midwest winter winds blew the snow sideways through the air.
On Christmas Eve, I trudged to church with my family and afterwards, as was custom, we opened our gifts. Those presents, new pajamas and slippers, could not fill the emptiness of my dad’s absence. When I went to bed that night, I soaked my pillow with angry tears.
Looking back on that Christmas now, I see my mother differently. The artificial Christmas tree was her way of maintaining a sense of semblance in a world that had turned up-side-down with the death of her husband and our dad. She understood the importance of preserving Christmas, even if it meant buying an artificial Christmas tree.
Why bother preserving Christmas? It is worth it to cherish Christmas since there is nothing artificial about the birth of a Saviour.