Traditions matter at Christmas
January 27, 2014
The Christmas tree came down this morning. Fifteen days after the holiday that celebrates the birthday of Christ. We were particularly happy with this year's tree, a 5-foot silver tip (our favorite for the way it shows off large ornaments) for its conical shape.
Taking it down meant re-examining ornaments that have survived the generations, some made by children and others created by their children. Complete with their hooks, they're carefully wrapped in old tissue and put into storage.
Along with un-stringing the lights, the old green and red Christmas tree stand is carefully drained, cleaned and dried out. Whenever we string the lights, I'm reminded of the days when an entire string would go out if one bulb went bad and how dad would painstakingly bring in a new bulb, screwing it into one socket after another. If two went out, it was a real headache.
As when we were children, our tree always has tinsel on the tips of the branches, and yes, we harvest it every season for use again next year. What? With how little a pack of tinsel costs nowadays?
It can be explained in a single word: Tradition.
During my childhood, a Lionel electric train ran around the base of our trees, and I can still hear the hum of its transformer and smell the wonderful oily aroma of its engine. It, too, only made an appearance at Christmas. Each year, a new car or gate crossing would be added.
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My parents wrote that they gave it away "to a little boy who didn't have any trains" when I was in the Army in Germany. A kindly gift, to be sure. I hope that child appreciated it as much as I did, but somehow, I doubt it.
In recent years, we had a larger-scale train running in a loop around the base of our tree, but it just wasn't the same. I gave it to my youngest son, living in Portland with his wife, and they're enjoying it.
Numerous things about Christmas have changed over the 75 years I've been around. And not all of them meet my approval. It seems to create mild embarrassment, for example, when people are reminded it's a religious holiday.
And today's school children sing far more about Frosty, Rudolph and Santa than the birth of the Christ child. I was lamenting the fact they don't know the words to all the wonderful Christmas carols I once sang when we were watching the Christmas pageant at our granddaughter's school. But then, the final performance of the evening was a solo by a little girl in a beautiful white dress. She sang "Silent Night" so wonderfully I choked back tears. Thank you.
Dick Tracy lives in Grass Valley.