Late Christmas Eve, a young girl stares at the lights of the Christmas tree with sleepy eyes. Her thoughts drift to visions of the toys she hopes Santa will bring. She occasionally shifts her gaze out the window, watching the falling snow on the trees. Her younger brother has already given into sleep, his head resting on the families golden retriever breathy heavily by his side. Waiting for Santa Claus, the children are living a real-life Norman Rockwell scene that replays itself a million times over each Christmas Eve.
Looking back on my fondest Christmas memories, many revolved around watching the brightly-colored lights on our tree. In our darkened living room, the glow from the lights made me feel safe and at peace. I still get that feeling every Christmas, sitting in our darkened living room and looking at the lights on our tree.
Early Christmas Memories
Mother was our master Christmas tree decorator when were young children. My sister and I were her helpers. Our job was to decorate the lower half of the tree. Over time, as we grew taller, our responsibilities also grew, and we were able to decorate the higher branches.
Following our mother’s directions, we hung lights of all colors, solid strings of red and blue lights with twinkling lights of yellow, green and white. My favorite was the lights with bubbles. After stringing the lights, mother began placing the other decorations, some were hand-made; others were mementos from places we visited in the past and occasionally something fancy. Each decoration was relevant in its own way. One year, we had a string of popcorn and fake cranberries. And tinsel—always an overload of gold and silver tinsel.
The star at the top of our tree was, for many years, a star my older sister made. My father had the honor of placing the star on the top of our tree. Signaling the end of our tree decorating, my father would bring the ladder out, always stretching a bit to reach the top past the sides of the tree that were now filled to capacity.
Our tree design became more sophisticated as we aged. The homemade star was replaced with something more dignified. What didn’t change was the laughter and fun we had decorating the tree, that never went away.
Inevitably, my sister and I moved forward with our lives. Still, many of our traditions today mirror those of the past. The sequence of decorating the tree is one tradition that remains the same, with my wife playing the role of expert master planner. As the father, I still enjoy placing the star at the top of the tree.
Today, without young children in the house, our tree is more polished. Still, much to my wife’s dismay I always manage to add a string of gurgling lights. On many nights during the holiday season, you can find me staring at the lights on our tree, remembering times past.
The Wonder of the Season
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, anything in December—or just enjoy time off from work, you can’t help but get caught up in the wonder of the holidays. This is the season of hope, kindness and goodwill and a time for peace on earth. It’s also a time for a child to get lost in the warm glow of Christmas Lights. As I grow older, I gain an understanding that it was never about the lights. It’s about memories, both those from the past and the new ones that we will make.