Of all the decorating at Christmas, perhaps the tree is the most personal item we decorate. It reflects who we are and where we've been more accurately than anything else.
Our first Christmas we had a Charlie Brown tree. Oddly enough, the cartoon that phrase is from wasn't even around back then. Our tree was a "real" tree, on the spindly side. We had about sixteen hand-me-down ornaments from my in-laws as they'd opted to go with a silver aluminum tree. And we had the old-fashioned big lights on it--only they weren't old-fashioned then. That was simply what was available. Except for a couple big floor cushions, the tree was the only thing in our living room as we were newly, newly married.
Over the years, as our lives changed, so did the tree. The year our first child was born, we even inherited the aluminum tree when my in-laws decided putting up a tree was too much bother.
The next year, with another new baby in the house, my friend Dorian started a tradition that held through the years. We added a new ornament for each child every Christmas. The idea was to accumulate some memories for them to take with them when they left home--and give them a base to begin their own traditions. As they grew older, they helped decorate the tree, each one sharing their memories as they rediscovered old ornaments and exclaimed over new ones.
There were other ornaments on the tree, of course. Every year in school or scouts, at least one child made an ornament for mom and dad. Those certainly became treasured additions. Some years we purchased one or two new ones that had particular meaning for us. And through the years, I accumulated quite a few from friends and family.
When the grandchildren came along, I started the ornament tradition with them, mailing off the ornaments in time for Christmas. And in some cases, my children have also continued the tradition.
One year I discovered bubble lights and snapped up several strings. In my childhood, I was fascinated by bubble lights, but they were quite dangerous back then. If you combine hot lights (the heat provided the bubbling mechanism) and a dry pine tree, you have a true recipe for disaster. The modern lights rely on chemistry to bubble and of course, we don't have a "real" tree as pine totally messes with my asthma.
In the early years of our marriage, we added silvery icicles to the tree. Everyone had their own technique for placing them on the tree. Some people tossed them at the tree in handfuls. Whatever stuck, stayed. Others placed them one at a time on the tree in some complicated arrangement only they could see in their mind's eye. After trying to remove them our first year with an artificial tree, we decided to fore go the icicles in the future.
The tree-topper is another deeply personal item. Some people have stars. Some have angels. We've had stars, angels, bows, and even one year a ball of lights. Its been a while since we decorated our tree so I'm not even sure what is in the closet for this year. I'm sure I'll come up with something, though.
What about you? Do you decorate a tree? If so, what are some of your traditions?