We don’t do a lot of gaudy light-show decorations for Christmas…somehow I think that cheapens the observance. What we do put up, we typically leave up until New Year’s Day. I’m actually not sure why, except that my family always did that…perhaps even I’m a bit prone to traditions. I like that it keeps the observance of the holiday in mind as you begin the New Year, though.
So, Saturday morning as I wake up and try somewhat successfully to think straight after half a cup of coffee, I find myself staring (blankly at first) at the tree in our living room. Specifically, I’m looking at the decorations on it. Other than relatively minimal lighting and so forth, all of our decorations are memories from our pasts: gift ornaments from family and friends, old co-workers from my first professional job out of college, gift ornaments from my parents from when I was a kid, even gift ornaments from my old restaurant job while I was in school. They date back to childhood: ornaments from vacations, from projects. Star Wars ornaments to indicate that I am, in fact, one of those nerds. My wife has a similar collection, and that is mostly what hangs on our tree.
So, me being me, I have to ask why; why do we hang this stuff on our tree, or even put a tree up? What’s the purpose of the tradition? Well, obviously I know that the Christmas tree was originally a pagan symbol that we’ve tried to Christianize through the centuries. But as I think of the ornaments that we hang on them, I think they’re really important, because I can look at any of those ornaments, and it takes me back to where I was and who I was with when I received it; sometimes it’s like I’m transported back there for a moment. A bit Tillichian, perhaps, but true. There isn’t a single ornament on the tree (from my end) that I can’t specifically remember the people and circumstances involved in my receiving or purchasing it.
Much wisdom, I think, lies in the concept that we must know where we come from in order to plan where we are going. I’ve never dwelt a lot on the past, but I do maintain a knowledge of it, because it is my heritage…it is part of what has made me who I am. To be able to reflect on that as we dream about the upcoming year, I think, is a good thing.
See you in 2008.