Its Christmas morning and I’m up early – not because I was excited to see what Santa brought me, but because Doc was snoring and, once I’m up – I’m usually up for good. However, when I came downstairs and turned on the lights on the Christmas tree, its soft glow immediately gave me a sense of peace and reminded me of many Christmas mornings past.
The first Christmas tree I remember was an artificial silver tree that looked like it was constructed entirely out of tinsel. For something that was potentially so hard and cold, that tree was festive and soft – literally – the “needles” felt almost like fur and I loved to stroke the branches and admire the play of lights on the reflective surface.
My sister and I could always count on one particular gift from Santa every year – a little Madame Alexander doll from the International collection. These dolls were 8-inches tall and always dressed in fabulous costumes. There was a little blonde doll from Holland, complete with wooden shoes; a dark-haired dancer from Spain, with a flowing red dress and a black mantilla; and a Brazilian beauty with a Carmen Miranda-like headpiece made of fruit. I didn’t understand the concept of a “collectable” and I loved to swap my doll’s costumes and brush their soft hair. Soon, they would look bedraggled and I would lose shoes or hats – but I did love those dolls!
When I had children of my own, I remembered that comfortable sense of happy expectation that came along with that Christmas tradition and I wanted to do something similar for my kids. Instead of dolls, my children got Christmas Eve pajamas from Santa Claus – a way to start the celebration early and allow them to FINALLY open a gift. Just like I knew I would always have a Madame Alexander doll waiting for me, my kids knew that their package contained jammies – the surprise was what style of PJs they were destined to wear that night.
We also fell into a fun tradition of decorating our tree in a different “theme” each year. One year, our tree was decorated entirely in seashells that we collected from our many trips to the beach in Corpus Christi, Texas. Another year, we ate at McDonald’s far too often in order to collect the 101 Dalmatian puppies that were the toy in the Happy Meal. We didn’t manage to get all 101 different Dalmatians, but we came pretty close and our tree was a black and white puppy paradise. I don’t know if my children cherished this tradition as much as I did – not only were our trees unique and attractive, but it was a way for me to look back on the year and some of the fun times I had spent with my kids.
As I get older and my children are no longer children, I find it harder to get into the Christmas spirit and to go “all out” in decorating. But I’m always glad I made the effort once the tree is up and the lights go on. The twinkle of the lights and sparkle of the ornaments always calms me – a little oasis of Zen in my otherwise chaotic life. I often contemplate just leaving that tree up all year – and I just might do it when I’m old enough that it will be considered just “eccentric” instead of “crazy”.