When my husband and I moved to our new home, I had Christmas plans for the living room with the 20-foot ceiling. Now I could finally have my adult, color-themed, elegant Christmas tree. I could already see it…in shades of burgundy and cream.
Since we moved in during November and my first order of business was to make a wedding dress, I didn’t get to have my Christmas tree that year. But I began planning ahead. I purchased burgundy velvet ribbon and cream colored satin. The balls were burgundy and cream colored. The lights were all white. A string of pearls winding through the branches gave it a touch of elegance.
I had to stand on a step ladder to complete the decorating. An angel with a burgundy dress, holding lighted candles in her hands, was placed on the top of the tree.
It was finished and looked just like I planned.
But somehow, it was not nearly as rewarding as I had expected. Sort of empty, somehow.
As I contemplated my feelings, I thought of previous Christmas trees. As a child…just my mother and me…we did not really decorate for Christmas. One of my first recollections of a Christmas tree involved a small clear plastic one, about ten inches high. It seemed rather bare as it sat on the metal trunk by the window. It was years later that I discovered the points on the ends of all the branches were supposed to have gum drops on them.
I recalled the first Christmas after my husband left. My three daughters and I waited until the “sale” at the Christmas tree lot and then brought home our “Charlie Brown” tree. The fun that year was making the ornaments. I had purchased a kit of wooden shapes that were awaiting paint. Spreading newspapers on the table, the children gathered around while I laid out the various paints and brushes.
Those ornaments became a mainstay on our tree each year. Each child could point with pride to the ones they had personally painted. After the children were grown and gone, I divided up those wooden ornaments and gave each of them a few of their masterpieces.
One year a member of the singles group at the church invited us to his home in northern Idaho the weekend before Christmas. “Home” was a small trailer where his parents lived in near poverty. But they had a lot of love to go around. Excitement was in the air as we headed into the woods to pick out a tree that would be chopped down in front of our very eyes…loaded on top of the car…and driven back to our apartment. What a treat that had been.
Looking again at the elegant tree in my living room, I knew it was missing something. Children.
I kept my burgundy and cream decorations for a few years, but slowly my focus was changing. Our first year in the house, my friend had given me a ceramic lighted church…part of a Christmas village.
Each year, my village grew.
Then came the year I chose the village over the Christmas tree. The village had grown so large that it filled the whole floor space of the living room. It was crowding out the tree. And I liked it!
My carefully planned burgundy and cream decorations were taken to Goodwill. The village took on a life of its own. I even named it…Cottonwood. It was fun to build. I would borrow children from the neighbors or bring in some school kids to help put it up. We would top off the evening with hot chocolate.
One year I sat and pondered the size of the village. It had grown to be ten times bigger than my nativity. Where, exactly, did I want my focus?
So I put out the word. Back off on the village additions. My new plan was to create a Bethlehem village.
A few pieces at a time, I began to build my Bethlehem village. Of course it has Mary, Joseph and the baby. The shepherds and lambs have gathered. The kings are presenting their gifts. But I also have a little drummer boy and a flute player. A young girl is holding her goose. Dogs lay at the feet of their masters. Horses nibble at hay in their shed. So far, I have added enough to Bethlehem to fill the dining room table.
And I don’t miss a Christmas tree.
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