by Magi Nams
Mystery and magic rest on the boughs of Christmas trees, waft through the excitement of ChristmasEve, and drape richness over Christmas Day. I grew up on a prairie farm that didn't have a single evergreen tree growing on it. When December rolled around, the local lumberyard brought in small Douglas firs from British Columbia, and my siblings and I accompanied Dad into the cavernous, cold, dark depths of the yard's warehouse to choose a Christmas tree. Squashed and flattened in transport, the chosen fir miraculously relaxed in our house and spread its scented boughs, which I wonderingly adorned with frosted spheres, shiny icicles and balls, strings of gold and red beads, and tinsel. Soon the mystery and magic which had begun in that darkened warehouse sang through our old farmhouse's living room. It didn't matter that the floor tiles were worn, or that a white rag had been stuffed into a crack in a window frame. New, sudden, exquisite beauty stood in the midst of all that had been normal and everyday, but was somehow no longer normal and everyday because of Christmas.
As a university student, I came home for Christmas and decorated my parents' tree, adding cranberry and popcorn garlands, which my mother loved. As a young wife, I made the same garlands and also crafted wheat ornaments and hung miniature wooden musical instruments – a gift from my sister-in-law – on my own Christmas tree. As a mother of two young children, I arranged my sons' paper chains among our Christmas tree's branches. One December, the boys and I painted round mini-gourds with stars and sheep, angels and the nativity scene, even Good King Wenceslas out in the snow. When our village hosted its annual Festival of Trees, my family decorated a 'Gourd King Wenceslas' tree with those painted ornaments from my garden.
This year, my husband and I cut a pleasing but unpruned balsam fir on our land the day before our first major snowstorm. We carried it home, fondly recalling the many winters our sons had helped us to choose a Christmas tree and then to haul it home on a toboggan or drag it stump-first across frosted grasses. While snow fell the following afternoon, I trimmed the fir, carefully opening boxes of decorations which included two of my original wheat ornaments and a half dozen of the miniature musical instruments. None of the painted gourds survived the years, but a tiny birch bark box made by my older son and a silver-and-gold-sprayed arrangement of wee sea shells glued together by my younger son did survive, and I gently attached their strings to the ends of twigs.
I found places for other decorations and realized that, with the exception of red and gold shiny balls I bought years ago to decorate a Festival of Trees fir on behalf of the local skating club, and with the exception of red, white, and green crocheted mini-stockings I bought from my craft-selling sister, all the remaining ornaments which passed from my hands to our 2013 Christmas tree were gifts to my husband, sons, or me: the delicate glass tops from dear friends, the quilted candy canes and reindeer from a sister, the starched, delicate snowflakes crocheted by my piano teacher's mother, and more. So many more. I felt as though I cradled years and friends and unspoken but not unknown love in my hands and set them out on our tree.
From my desk, I can see it now – well, half of it – through the living room doorway. The lights I spiraled around it are incandescent specks of pink and red, green and yellow and blue. I plugged them in this afternoon – long before dark – because I knew I could see the tree from here. Part of me is still the little girl who went with her dad to choose Christmas trees in a big, dark lumberyard warehouse. And part of me is still the little girl who decorated those trees and stared at them in wonder, caught up in the mystery and magic of Christmas.
Have a joyous and blessed Christmas and happy and healthy New Year! Do you have a favourite tree ornament or Christmas tree story?
If you enjoyed this post, check out my website at www.nams.ca/MagiBlog. Today, I'm blogging about Wrinkled Ice for Christmas.