There Are No Perfect Christmas Trees
Decorated Christmas trees are now an essential part of almost everyone's Christmas celebrations. We put them everywhere, and it's generally considered very sad when someone decides "not to have a tree." We've got artificial trees of all sizes from enormous to table top, cut-your-own tree farms and fresh Christmas trees for sale on practically every corner.
As with so many other Christmas traditions, the original meaning and symbolism of Christmas trees have been lost in a flood of secular materialism. This lack of understanding imposes standards of perfection on our Christmas trees and their decorations that further suppress the untidy human dimension of our faith and its traditions. Lumpy children's decorations - with all the eager intent, love, and learning that they represent - are no longer welcome on our trees. How tragic.
As we moved our domestic church towards restoring Christmas, one of the first things my husband and I did was replace a Christmas Eve visit from Santa Claus with a visit from Saint Nicholas on his feast day. This restored the celebration of Christmas as a family and community celebration of a joyous miraculous occasion, and the exchange of gifts at Christmas as expressions of that happiness. The fun of a big family gathering replaced the materialism of a big pile of gifts. Our Advent wreath, Jesse tree readings and other traditions re-inforce that message and the pressure for "the Best Christmas Ever" had eased considerably.
So what about the Christmas tree, with its central position in our living room and our Christmas traditions? Yes, we need to tie it to the wall to keep Andrew from pulling it over (as he did twice the year he was three,) but what else can we do with it? We can use it as another place to communicate the message of the importance of family, and the human joy of Christmas. Home-made Christmas tree ornaments may not have the glossy perfection of store-bought or professionally made ornaments, but they shine with love and memories.
Our family tree has plaster and bakers' dough ornaments made and painted by the children, cross-stitch, stuffed and felt ornaments that I've made over the years, tiny birchbark canoes in honor of our family canoe trips, painted glass ornaments by our oldest daughter, tiny grass and seed angels by my sister-in-law and a myriad of other mis-matched, disconnected and unco-ordinated ornaments. We look forward to seeing them every year.
Leave the beautifully decorated perfect trees in the impersonal shopping centres where they belong. Perfection is for sissies. Facing the Reality of our imperfection and the contrast between it and the perfection of God takes courage. Facing the garish and lumpy offering of a beaming four year old with a straight face takes an equal amount and kind of courage, the courage to love.
Make your own family tree in your own domestic church a reflection of that courage and love - as untidy and imperfect, as real, genuine and loving as our families and ourselves.
For some craft suggestions to make Christmas tree decorations for your own family, visit our Fridge Art Page.
For more about Christmas Trees and other Christmas traditions, see our articles by Shonnie Scarola; Advent traditions, Part One Advent traditions, Part Two Advent traditions, Part Three More Advent Traditions