Traditions – Christmas Tree Evolution

The Christmas tree has evolved over the years.  As a child, we had the artificial pine about six feet tall. I remember being about 5 or 6 and mom said we would make our ornaments this year.  She took cardboard and cut it into stars, bells, and trees.  We had glitter (red, gold and silver) and glue to decorate the cut-outs.  She put yarn through them and we hung them on the tree.  I loved that tree with our handmade ornaments and too much silver garland.  One year, we tried to string popcorn around the tree.  That proved futile because we ate most of the popcorn and didn’t like getting pricked by the needle to string it together.

In my teens, we went to no tree just lights, but still festive. During my junior year in high school, mom and dad had us gather in the living room.  After years of renting, they wanted to buy a house and that required saving for a down payment and making double payments on debts to clear up credit.  Because of this, they said we would not receive Christmas gifts that year.  I don’t recall being mad or disappointed.  I knew my parents worked hard and provided for us, so if they said this was necessary it had to be.  That Christmas morning, my sisters and I walked to the kitchen for Christmas breakfast and what did we behold?!  There was a small jewelry box at each of our seats.  Mom and dad bought us gold rings with our birthstones.  The rings weren’t very expensive and they probably came from a discount store.  However, I was never as appreciative of a gift as then.  Mom and dad said, “We don’t want the first time you receive jewelry to be from a man giving it to you with ulterior motives.”  My sisters and I would sleep and shower with the rings on.  My mom had to tell us to take them off for bathing, dishes and bedtime.

When the nieces and nephews came on the scene, the tree returned.  However, there was the mystery of why all the ornaments on the bottom of the tree where broken or missing.  One nephew, at the age of two, decided the bulbs provided good kicking practice.  He would lean against the wall and kick the ornaments as if trying to get a field goal.  Until he was older, we stopped putting ornaments on the bottom of the tree.

He was also the one that would tear the edges of all the presents.  To this day, I wrap presents in old boxes because even as a teenager, he still peels the edges of all the presents.  A few Christmases ago, this almost backfired on me when my six year old niece opened a present and thought I bought her a set of kitchen knives.  The look on her face was priceless and it’s a story that gets repeated each year.

Now the nieces and nephews are older, things have changed a bit.  I still put up my tree after Thanksgiving, but they don’t help in tree setup.  Since the threat of ornament loss is over, a few years back I bought nice ornaments.  A friend (that has been like a brother to me) comes over and makes my tree beautiful.  The nieces and nephews look forward to seeing my fabulously decorated tree and it gives me time to catch up with a dear friend.  Yesterday, he came over to deck the tree and as we were catching up on events since the last time we hung out, he said it is too much time in between and we live in the same city.  So now we plan to meet at least once a month to stay in touch.  It’s the family thing.  There’s a song “In the Living Years” – where the singer talks about his dad and wished he’d told him those things while he was living, but now it is too late.  This time of year reminds me to rekindle friendships and say the things I’ve been too busy to get around to now.

I hope this one encourages you to reach out to family and loved ones and say/do what you need now in their living years.  We think we have forever with each other, but forever isn’t as long as we anticipate.

Ronda Lee
Founder, Editor-in-Chief
Ronda is an attorney, writer, and entrepreneur. She is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Originally from Chicago, she has lived in Los Angeles and New York. She loves to travel and is passionate about education equity, especially for first generation college students.