December 2, 2009

Letter to a Friend

Friday, as is our tradition, we decorated our Christmas tree. When I was a girl, we decorated the tree on Thanksgiving day.

In our early years, Allen was attending college by day, working in the computer lab by night and working as a carpenter on any day he didn't make the hour long commute to the University of Maryland. Days off were few and far between. The Thanksgiving holiday meant half a day of vacation. We always had a houseful of college students and military personnel who couldn't go home for the holidays. So as the turkey roasted, we took advantage of all those helping hands to decorate the tree.

As our family, and the chaos grew, Allen moved the official tree decorating day to the Friday after Thanksgiving. We also started serving pizza as a reprieve from Thanksgiving leftovers in the tradition of Allen's family, who were always treated to pizza the day they decorated their Christmas tree.

In case you have not figured it out, the Christmas holidays are pretty important around here and I will be writing much about the traditions that make them special to us. If you are like my dad, and can't tolerate all the merriment, then I will either convert you or see you in January. In the meantime here is our tree this year.

When we were growing up, both Allen's and my family trees were covered with colored lights. He and I couldn't ever decide which we liked best. I like the Victorian feel of the white lights. On the other hand, I also like the festiveness of the colored lights. I am not as clever as my friend, Hope, who puts both on but connects them to separate power strips so her family can enjoy what they are in the mood for at the moment.

Instead, we started setting up two trees. One formal tree in the living room. From the beginning of our family, we have added one ornament for each of us each Thanksgiving. The hope is that each child will have a collection to start their tree when they marry. On here are also ornaments that I collect from each place I travel. This year, I will be adding one from St. Kitts, Sicily and London. Friends and family have sent me ornaments from all over the world from West Virginia to Madrid and everywhere in between. There are ornaments to celebrate the birth of each of our children, ornaments that served as favors at our December wedding and even one to mark the year we bought our home. Some are home made and some are store bought but each has a very special meaning.

Putting the tree up takes hours as we discuss what is special about this one or that one. Many nights between now and Christmas will be spent sitting on the floor under the tree winding some up to hear the music and talking about why we chose this particular one.

Underneath, serving as a tree skirt, is a red and white quilt that was made by a long since deceased friend of mine who made each stitch by hand a hundred years ago.

In the family/play room the kids set up their very own tree. This one is more colorful with colored lights, red ribbons and ornaments of all things Disney. Many of the ornaments are favorites from family vacations over the years. Others are sent from friends and family who have made the trip. The blanket that we use as a tree skirt, a gift from my sister, is embroidered with Pooh and friends decorating their Hundred acre wood Christmas tree.

I love a Christmas tree. I could, and often do, sit beside it for hours each night listening to Christmas music, reading to the kids and just visiting with the family.
I hate to take the tree down. I am always sad on that day. And I hate the darkness that follows. Even though the Christmas tree started as a Pagan symbol, isn't the tree a wondrous reminder of the gift our Lord gave us on the tree at Calvary? Are the lights on it not a vision of the light Jesus on the cross gave to the world? Have you ever read, "The Tale of Three Trees?" If not check it out. It is a beautiful old folk tale that illustrates the love of the cross. Don't forget your hanky. It is one of the books categorized by my children as, "a makes mama cry book."

Our tree is also a reminder of the blessings our King has bestowed on our little family. The growing ornament collection each year reminds us of how those blessings continue to multiply as we live for Him, the places we've been and the loved ones we have been honoured to journey with.



  1. Christmas is a beautiful time. I love everything about it~ especially the true meaning.

    Your family has decorated two beautiful trees. I have a few of blogs that I like to link up to for Christmas: there are two that you can post on about how you have decorated your home or tree and a third one that you get to post about your Christmas card. If you would like those, let me know. I'll e-mail them to you.

    Looking forward to reading about your family's traditions. Have a blessed day, Kat.

  2. Ciao! Come stai?
    I love everything about Christmas! Here in Italy we decorate our homes on 8 December, so I'm looking forward to wait this day! But I have already started to decorate my blog, I'm searching for something beautiful! I love to decorate during all the year for every seasons, but in particular now. The more Christmas decorations I see, more I'm happy! gee...i don't think this last sentence I wrote is strange englsih again!
    I will improve....I hope!

  3. Hi,

    Our tree is not as imprssive as yours (in fact this year its the smallest tree we've ever had) but we are planning to plant it in the garden next year so we can continue to enjoy it. When we go to get the tree the girls pick out a decoration each and they go on the tree. Each of the girls has a special bear made by a friend who makes miniature bears...but i'll post it all tonight/tomorrow. I love your much tradition

  4. My Mom always set up two trees. One themed and one with our memory ornaments. The holidays are HUGE in our family and we totally converted my former Grinch hubs! ah ha

  5. Kat,

    That is just beautiful. The trees the post the kids...everything. I love your family. So so sweet. I love that book The tale of three trees. It is perfect