Christmas Time — The Sign

treeWhat do you remember most about your Christmases past? How did you know when it was Christmas time and when did you begin feeling excited? Was it around Thanksgiving when your parents started using Santa for behavioral modification? Was it the first time you actually saw Santa on the street? Was it your first familiar Christmas tune or when you decorated your home for the holidays? For me it was the seasonal changes, the obvious store advertising, music on the radio and the decor, but no element symbolized Christmas more than the antique Christmas tree.

My family was transient and moved frequently. I attended six different schools during my formative years so you lose a little nostalgia when you’re perpetually on-the-go. But no matter where or how far we moved, my parents made the annual Christmas trek to grandma’s house. Seeing grandma each year was an important part of feeling the Christmas spirit, but among the travel, family and presents the most significant Christmas reminder was grandma’s silver tinsel Christmas tree.

It was the most brilliant and sparkly yuletide icon I remember. Grandma covered the end table with a Christmas skirt and placed the tree on top of it. The tree was silvery with reflective blue glass balls, a faded pink and yellow topper and the four-colored rotating light that changed the tree from amber, to red, to blue, to green and back.

If you dissect it into it’s parts, it is no more than a common wooden dowel with tinsel-covered aluminum bars poked into it. Compared to the life-like, pre-lit, aroma-infused trees today, it lacks life, ceremony and authenticity. But despite its insipid appearance, it remains my most significant secular symbol that Christmas has arrived!

I look at it fondly and reminisce about sights, sounds and smells of Christmas with grandma which always made the long trip worthwhile. In fact, I have two small tinsel trees I decorate each year to remind me of those simple and wonderful Christmases with grandma.

Life seems so different now. Christmas pounces on us. Stores are overwrougt with voracious deal-shoppers trampeling others for this year’s hot item. Travel is more complicated and stressful. Everything moves ridiculously fast, so I’m grateful to mom and dad for those simple family Christmases at grandma’s house that remind me Christmas is about gathering with family and the little tinsel tree that says, welcome home.