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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Christmas Tree (10/09/08)

TITLE: A Tale of Two Trees
By Alice Zvacek


Putting up the Christmas trees has always been a big deal in our family. It takes most of the weekend after Thanksgiving. We start getting to my parents on Friday. We eat our Turkey on Satruday and then get busy decorating. My mom and dad have a huge great room, which is good because it has two trees in it -- one on each side of the fireplace. It takes us most of the afternoon and evening on Saturday just to get all of the stuff out. We decorate the trees, the mantle, the windows, everything. One tree is strictly Christian. It has only Christian ornaments that my mom has gathered over the years, and has a huge nativity scene that goes under it. My mom says that it’s to represent God’s gift to us. The other tree is a hodge podge of all the decorations my parents have collected throughout the years, and at Christmas we always run out of room underneath for all our presents.

Last year began like any other year except that it started snowing Friday night. We were all excited -- a little snow to get in the Christmas spirit! When we woke up Saturday morning, no one was excited. We were in the middle of a blizzard! There was eight inches of snow on the ground, and it was still snowing!

We manged to get our Turkey dinner in before the electricity went out. My mom went for the candles, flashlights and camping lanterns. We put all the leftovers in the unheated garage. It must have struck my grandma as funny, because she kept saying “isn’t that the biggest refrigerator you’ve ever seen.” My dad got the propane stove out that he uses for hunting. At least we could heat our food even if we weren’t very warm. The only livable rooms were the family room and the great room with the fireplaces, so we all camped out. We dug out sleeping bags, took the comforters off all the beds, and robbed the closets of their blankets.

The kids kind of liked the camping out, but they didn’t want to miss decorating the trees. The guys decided to brave the garage refrigerator and brought in the two huge artifical trees. Finding decorations wasn’t so easy. They’re mostly in the attic, and it was way too dark up there to find anything. We found just a few new ones that Mom bought, and we found the nativity scene. We decided that we would have to go back to the basics. The kids made construction paper garland. Mom had bought a lot of candy canes, and they hung on the branches. My sister had a pattern for Christmon ornaments which are symbols that represent Jesus’ life. They’re supposed to be white with gold, but we had to improvise with construction paper and foil.

The Christ tree was kind of full, but the other tree still looked pretty bare. All of the sudden, my ten-year-old niece Kelsey said “I know what we should do! The Jesus tree always shows us about God’s gift to us. Maybe the other tree should show our gifts to God! We could all write a letter to God telling him what we’re going to do for him before Christmas. Then we could put them in envelopes, decorate the envelopes, and hang them on the tree!” My mom thought it was a great idea, so even the most reluctant family members started writing.

Once we got the letters on the tree, we talked, played games and read until the lights finally came back on Sunday night. My mom made our traditional hot cider, and we turned on the pre-lit trees. The foil ornaments glimmered. We found the angel and star and put them on top. The roads were finally clear enough to leave on Monday.

On Christmas, we still had plenty of presents, but we made sure to look at our letters and see if we had given God the gifts we had promised. We also enjoyed looking at the trees that we all helped create.

As we were getting ready to go home Christmas night, I asked my 11-year old son Garrett if he missed the way the trees usually were. He said “Not so much.” All the kids chimed in with their agreement.

This year the decorations will be back to normal, but my mom has declared that our Gift to God letters will become an annual tradition.

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