THE ORNAMENT I purchased in a gift shop during our 2010 visit to the Vatican in Rome is making its debut on our Christmas tree in BC this year. The season rolled around so quickly that I missed putting up a tree last year ... unusual in my world as I have always kept up the tradition.
Unwrapping old decorations to put on artificial boughs, I realized many ornaments have special meaning (including one of Penelope pictured below). From the thrill of discovering the best tree amid rows of scented evergreens when my daughter was small to the era of guilt over "killing" a live tree, my feelings about the ritual and what it represents have taken twists and turns.
Stresses and demands can squash the joy right out of the festive season that does have its somber side, depending on personal circumstances. As journalist Jimmy Cannon said in the mid 1900s, "Christmas is a holiday that persecutes the lonely, the frayed, and the rejected."
Unrealistic expectations and falling short of a picture perfect life can mar the ideal described by author Washington Irving in the early 19th century when he said, "Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart."
I suppose Christmas in its many manifestations is whatever one thinks it to be. As it continues to evolve, Canadian society oddly seems to have made the true religious icons of the holiday quietly disappear so as not to infringe on other faiths in our diverse culture.
Prior to its association with Christianity, the evergreen symbolized renewal of life. So whether or not one believes in the biblical supernatural birth of a child and the resurrection there is still room for wonder when decorating a tree, if only to celebrate the miracle of new beginnings that we see all around us in the natural world.
And as reminded by this picture of a Santa-decorated tree, created by my daughter one year for a contest, where do the presents go if there is no tree?
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Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms