Every Christmas tree tells a story. Whether it be fresh cut or from a box, it holds the story of the family who decorates it. It displays little pieces of their life. Shiny store-bought bulbs, family heirlooms, handmade construction paper ornaments that reflect the best parts of childhood. Our tree is no different.
The trend today is the fancy tree. You know the sort, I call them “department store trees” because they’re coordinated, evenly decorated, and shiny. They’re truly beautiful and they hold their own unique stories, but we don’t have one of those.
Our fake tree was bought at Walmart circa 2008. Sure it’s not one of the fancy ones, but its dust-laden branches display precious pieces of us every year. You see, for our first Christmas, my husband and I were going away so he suggested we skip decorating a tree. We didn’t really have money for a tree and decorations anyway, so I put on a brave face and agreed. It was sensible, and sensible would have to do.
Thankfully, my husband could see right through me. He sensed I needed a touch of Christmas around our new home. He asked his mom to mail his childhood decorations and sneaked out to Walmart and bought a simple tree, a box of silver plastic bulbs, and two strands of white lights. When he walked in the door with a boxed tree in hand, I burst into tears. We were making our own traditions and without realizing it, he gave me the best gift he could’ve ever given me.
That first Christmas we had a slightly sparse but beautiful tree. A reflection of us. Past, present, and a placeholder for things to come. To most people, it would probably have been unassuming, but to us it was special.
Each year we added to it, starting with our newlywed ornament given as a wedding gift, then the ornaments we chose each Christmas thereafter.
Once we started having kids, our tree reached a whole new level of perfection. We lovingly picked out an ornament for each of our four babies. And it was chaos when they were little trying to protect the priceless treasures from curious tiny hands, but we did, and as they grew they began to decorate it with us.
Now, each Christmas the tradition lives on and they eagerly search the box for their baby ornament and place it on the tree with pride. A piece of them, displayed for all to see.
With each passing Christmas, it becomes more and more flashy in all the best ways. “Eclectic,” as I fondly call it. Forget a theme, our tree has every ornament you can imagine. Sparkly bulbs, vintage Santas with pipe cleaner beards, metallic musical notes, nativity scenes, a teddy ballerina, wooden skates, and four green clay handprints that are far too heavy for the skinny branches. It’s a crazy little mish-mash of us, and it’s magical.
Who knows, maybe one day one of my kids will call and ask for the ornaments as a starter kit for their own family tree. And maybe we’ll have a perfectly color-coordinated “department store tree” that will beautifully match our home and tell a story of a new stage of life. But for now, we have our eclectic collection of ornaments on sparse little branches, and it makes me smile each and every year because it represents us.
Our mismatched tree is a symbol of our family and every year it brings us together to kick off the Christmas season with joy and laughter. It seems to magically warm up our living room as it simultaneously warms our spirits. It’s flashy and full, but most importantly it’s us—because our tree tells our story.