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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Of Christmas Trees, Mystery, Magic, and Gourd King Wenceslas

 
 
Mystery and magic rest on the boughs of Christmas trees, waft through the excitement of Christmas
Eve, 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.

11 comments:

  1. Magi, thanks for sharing your Christmas memories. My tree is decorated with many home-made ornaments, too. Hanging them is a wonderful occasion as I remember where each of the ornaments came from. And it's the one time during the holidays that I let myself feel a little sad about the people who are no longer here.

    Best wishes for a safe and happy Holiday Season.

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    1. Thanks, Anne. Christmas is a time for memories and making new memories with loved ones. I love the spirit of generosity and kindness that pervades the air at this time of year. Hope you have a lovely Christmas!

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  2. Thanks for sharing such beautiful memories, Magi. I love pulling out old ornaments and remember the story that goes with each. Merry Christmas, everyone!

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    1. Bev , it's amazing how ornaments we store away in our houses for most of the year suddenly fill us with heart-tugging memories. But beautiful, too. Maybe because we're writers, those ornament stories settle deep within us. Warmest Christmas wishes to you!

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  3. What a beautiful post and a beautiful tree. I love the unpruned trees and dearly wish they were easier to find. The ornaments on our tree are older, and I can tell you a little something about each one. It makes Christmas beautiful and bittersweet all at the same time.

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    1. Michelle, I know exactly what you mean by beautiful and bittersweet at the same time - our hearts get stretched, but torn, too. Take care, and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

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  4. Beautiful post, Magi. Christmas memories are precious. When I was very small we lived in a basement apartment in Montreal, but I remember lying in bed certain I'd just heard Santa's reindeer on the roof five floors above. The memories arepart of the magic.

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    2. Jennie, I used to take off my glasses so the Christmas tree lights would look big and fuzzy and more beautiful than ever. Have a very Merry Christmas!

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  5. What a wonderful post, Magi. This is my first Christmas with a real tree since I left home. We've been missing out all these years because the smell is heavenly! Ours is also decorated with ornaments that have attached meaning. For our first Christmas together, I gave my husband an ornament and a tradition in our home was born. Even though my kids are 21 & 19, they still look forward to seeing all their ornaments and getting a new one. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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    1. Thanks, Annette. I love your ornament-giving tradition and agree that real trees smell heavenly. Hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas!

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