Family Traditions

Why I Took Down My Christmas Tree

My tree has been up for two years – literally. It’s a beautiful 7.5′ pre-lit artificial (duh!) tree, decorated almost solely with my extensive Santa ornament collection. I estimate there are over 75 Santas on that tree. It looks terrific lit, and creates a heat that keeps the entire living room nice and toasty.  It’s stayed up because, frankly, it makes me happy! My rationale has been “Why should I take down this beautiful thing that makes me feel so wonderful?!” I turned the living room into a Christmas room (keeping several of my Santa figurines in a glass case nearby) and called it a day.

The children (well, the teenagers) were initially mortified. They viewed my sentimentality as procrastination, disorganization, or even worse, some sort of mental defect. “Mom, what is wrong with you?” Eventually, my daughter began using the tree as a landmark when providing directions to the house. . . “it’s the fifth house on the left – the one with the Christmas tree in the big front window – yes, that’s right…” Finally, it became a source of some kind of perverse pride. “Nobody else has a Christmas tree up in July… my mom is just a Christmas person… we like it!” Hubby just laughed and checked it off as another one of Ruth’s eccentricities. It has even gotten a mention on Facebook as a viable option for a Christmas tree — “the year ’round Burcaw Approach!”


Still, I was surprised by the family reaction to my announcement that we would be taking down the tree at the end of the 2011-12 holiday season. What was I thinking? “We are the family who leaves their Christmas tree up! What will we tell our friends?” It just seemed like time; I mean, do you have any idea how much dust can accumulate on a Christmas tree over the course of two years?  Dusting a tree is not an easy task.  So, the weekend after epiphany (January 6), the tree came down. As I worked on the dismantling, I reflected about why it had to come down now:

  • Simple Boredom: Over time, I stopped noticing the tree. My trips into the living room to sit and read/knit by the glowing light of the tree became fewer and fewer. I began to take its beauty for granted.
  • The Process is Important : As I removed each ornament one-by-one from its carefully-chosen location nestled among the branches, I realized I receive great satisfaction in touching, admiring, and most of all, remembering the story of each ornament.  A thoughtful employee who moved on long ago gave me the gorgeous Santa and Mrs. Claus kissing fish ornaments.  We picked up the little Mickey Mouse in a Christmas light bulb ornament during our family trip to Disney World in 2006. Another rare wooden Santa I bought in a mall in Phoenix while traveling for work.  Santa riding a fish I gave to my husband, an aspirational fisherman. An old-fashioned Santa cross-stitched by my father-in-law was an early marriage gift. The elegant Radke, the whimsical Silvestri, the Santa on a golf ball from my childhood tree. Each ornament stirs up emotions and memories, most all of them good, associated with people and places throughout my life. Why would I deny myself the small pleasure of the trip down Santa Memory Lane?
  • A Tree Does Not Equal Happiness: Where does authentic happiness come from? Certainly, I am aware that nothing external creates happiness on any core level, but the tree has always represented meaningful aspects of  my life – the joy and anticipation of Christmas, special family memories and trips, light that shines in darkness, and moments of peaceful, quiet contemplation. But do I really need the tree to conjure up those thoughts and images? Can I create happiness without the physical reminder? I suppose it is time to consider the possibility.

Will I ever leave my tree up again? Do I promise to go back to the predictable but somewhat dull Advent through Epiphany approach to the Christmas tree? Will the “Burcaw Approach” have value for another year? Or two? What about decorations for next year? Will I go back to the homemade ornaments I tucked away several years ago as the idea for a Santa tree took hold? So many questions, so much to think about. Stay tuned  . . . hopefully many more holiday seasons to contemplate the questions of the TREE!


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