Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas Comfort

Remembering the Reason for the Season.

There are so many wonderful things to love about Christmas time. I love the tender reminders that God loved His children enough to send a Savior and exemplar, who began life as we all did, in the form of an innocent infant. I love the opportunities to celebrate and spend time with family and friends. I love the music. I love the upbeat greetings of total strangers we meet, so many sharing the same positive feelings engendered by the season. I even love the shopping crowds as we each struggle to find the gifts we hope will most please our loved ones, even though we know they'll love anything that comes from our hearts.

It always begins with the tree.
November 29, 2015

One of my favorite things about Christmas is inviting its spirit into our home with the little touches that bring cozy comfort and warm our hearts while we count down to Christmas Day. For us, it usually begins with choosing the Christmas tree, whether it comes pre-cut from Walmart or from  an hours-long search for the perfect fresh tree in the forest. This year, probably for the last time, we chose a forest tree. That was two weeks ago.

Then two strings of lights brighten up the tree.

I was wandering alone in the woods, not wanting to slow down everyone else with my gimpy knee, when I saw our tree in the distance. The trees I choose always seem to speak to me, saying, "I'm the one." Often, after it's cut, I wonder if I made the right choice. This time was no different. I looked at the nice trees chosen by Sarah and Chris and Brenda and thought maybe I'd made a mistake. Yet it always seems to turn out well.

The finished tree makes me happy. It reminds me of the trees of my youth. 
And there are only a few more gifts left on my list!
December 13, 2015

This year's tree was about a foot shorter than usual, and about two feet wider! I wasn't sure how it would fit into my tiny living room. It required a lot of trimming of branches to achieve even a close fit, but we did it. The long branches were less sturdy than I'd hoped, so we had to be slightly more selective about which ornaments to hang this year, but the tree holds all of our most treasured ones. 

And, for some reason, weeks before we hunted out our tree, I purchased two boxes of tinsel on impulse. I hadn't put tinsel on a Christmas tree since the mid-1960s, when my mom enlisted the aid of us kids to place the tinsel on the branches one piece at a time. Seeing the tinsel brought back so many memories that I decided to revive that tradition, at least for this one year.

The tree is made more special by the ornaments collected over the years.
Each one has special meaning, memories connected to loved ones.

As it turned out, the tinsel was perfect for this tree, helping to fill in the gaps between branches. And, what can I say, I love the retro look! I admit, I was torn regarding the best method to apply the tinsel. My mom was a firm believer in placing it on the tree one strand at a time, so I always thought that was just how it was done. Imagine my surprise when I learned, as a teenager, that one of my aunts applied it by standing back and tossing the tinsel at the tree, one handful at a time. And her tree always looked nice, too.

I decided to split the difference by putting the tinsel on the tree by draping it gently over the branches in small handfuls, five or six strands at a time. It still took several days to do the entire tree, and I think it could have used another box or two of tinsel, but I really like the result. I do love glitter and sparkle, and the fluttering tinsel reflects the shimmer of lights beautifully.

Of course, if I'd known we were going to have a new puppy in the house right before Christmas, I might have rethought the whole tinsel plan. I seem to spend a lot of time picking up tinsel from the floor and re-draping it over the branches!

My camera won't capture Christmas lights in the dark very well.
Dylan took this one with his nicer camera after we finished decorating.

Once the tree is done, the rest of the room must be enhanced with Christmas decorations, as well. Most of my little Christmas scenes go on my shelves year after year, so if you've ever been on my blog at Christmas time, much of this won't be new to you. But here they are again anyway!

Entertainment center shelves are adorned with Christmas treasures.

My Willow Tree Nativity is my favorite, but this comes in second place.
I bargained for this hand-painted Mexican Nativity in Nogales, Mexico, in the 1980s.
I love to see José, Maria, and Jesus in traditional Mexican garb!

I only fill the candy jar at Christmas time, with Skittles.
I can't use M&Ms or I'd eat them all myself!

I added two new trees and more mini-gifts to my Christmas Tree Forest this year.

The red-and-white-striped peppermint tree is new to my Christmas Tree Forest, above, and so is the largest ceramic tree with the little bulbs. Mark's Grandma Helen, who raised him, had that exact same tree (the big ceramic one), which she kept on the headboard of Mark's waterbed between Christmases. When you plug it in, the bulbs and star topper light up, which is very pretty in a darkened room. I never saw it again after Mark and I divorced in 2006, of course, and when Helen died in March 2011 the tree disappeared, probably claimed by a relative.

Then, a month ago, I saw this tree in a Hallmark sale pamphlet. I showed it to Mark. "Remember this tree?" I asked excitedly. He wasn't quite as enthusiastic as I was (men), but he agreed that it would be nice to have for its sentimental value. While Dylan was too young to have memories of the tree, Sarah and Jacob both remembered it from their great-grandma's house. So a few days later I was able to purchase it at the local Hallmark for 30% off.

Those of us who were kids in the 1960s remember these characters
from the annual TV presentation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
We looked forward to it every year!

A tiny little Nativity called "Christmas in a Nutshell." Both it and
the clothespin angel were made long ago by my sister-in-law Dana.

I love to relax in the soft glow of colored lights and soak in the ambiance created by these memories on my tree and shelves every year at Christmas time. These subtle reminders of the joyous reason we celebrate Christmas make our home feel so warm and comforting. It's my favorite place to be, especially when we're surrounded by family and friends. That's what Christmas is supposed to feel like.

Christmas scenes to enjoy.

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