Monday, December 10, 2012

O Christmas Tree

O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
You are the tree most loved!
How often you give us delight
In brightly shining Christmas light!

      -- English translation of O Tannenbaum by Ernst Anschutz

Every Christmas season, 
my maternal grandparents tucked an evergreen tree
into the corner of their small living room--
behind Grandma's reading chair and the end of the couch.
It was decorated with a few glass ornaments 
but no lights, not a single strand or bulb.
 I would look at that tree and feel completely underwhelmed.
Where was the sparkle? the twinkle? the gleam?

On the other hand, my parents' family Christmas tree 
never inspired a sense of awe in me either;
that is, not until the big colorful red, blue, green, 
and orange lights were turned on.
I have always preferred lots of  glitter and light on my Christmas trees.
But glass ornaments were in short supply since my mother preferred
handcrafted ornaments, popcorn garlands, 
decorated sugar cookies, candy airplanes, and peppermint candy canes.
But we always finished it off with lots of tinsel
which reflected the twinkle of the lights, so I was happy.

photo courtesy of

My paternal grandmother went in an entirely different direction.
When my grandfather was alive, they had always had a large evergreen tree.
But after he died in the early 1960s, Grandma was one of the first
to embrace the space-age silver-aluminum tree.
She always decorated it with a dozen or so round blue glass ornaments.
My favorite part was the color wheel beneath it
that colored the tree blue, green, yellow, and red by turns.

photo courtesy of

Nowadays, it's possible to buy Christmas trees that are white,
pink, purple, or blue, with lights to match.
There are trees in different sizes, different shapes. 
Tall enough to reach the highest ceiling, 
tiny enough to fit in a small box.
And they are decorated with flashing lights, twinkling lights, 
even hundreds and hundreds of lights in a rainbow of colors
and shapes like stars or flowers, even chili peppers.

I have to confess, as much as I love Christmas trees,
there are some years I don't put one up at all.
Other years, I have one in every room
and they are decorated in all kinds of different ways.
But above all else, they have lights.
Lots and lots of lights.

No comments: