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Memories of Christmas Trees Past

December 13, 2017
BY CHUCK CLEGG - Columnist , Wetzel Chronicle

Christmas is only a short time away, and most of us have been busily preparing for the special day. For most of us, part of that preparation is the custom of bringing a Christmas tree into our homes. Some of you will have placed your tree in its time-honored place the day after Thanksgiving. Others will wait until Christmas Eve to set up their tree. Each family has its own tradition for this annual event.

It is not uncommon for a family with young children to place its tree in the corner, right after the first day of December. I have come to understand that, in many ways, Christmas is for kids. Their joy of expectations of hidden gifts, under the Christmas tree, fills their every waking moment until Christmas morning.

Parents soon learn that once the tree has been set up, it becomes the center of attention for kids in the house. The wonderment of a Christmas tree is like a magnet for children. I'll bet there is not a person around that has not broken a Christmas bulb they were inspecting. And that inspection came after the parents expressively said, "Stay away from the tree and don't touch the decorations." Parents should have saved their breath; kids can't help themselves when such a wondrous thing stands in the house.

In our home, a very long time ago, our son Jeremiah was playing with his cousin Roger, and somehow the tree was knocked over. He knew he was going to be in trouble and told his Mom, "Dad will kill me." When I got home, I tried not to laugh, but I just couldn't help myself. That year, we reassembled the tree from a pile of pine needles and broken bulbs on the floor. Christmas is for kids, and ever since the first tree was decorated, accidents have happened.

Without any doubt, I'll bet that Christmas trees have long been knocked over by cats and dogs. Many have fallen due to faulty tree stands. And without any consideration of its placement, a tree was decorated too close to a door. Then, when the door was opened, it caused the tree to topple over. I would guess somewhere in America, a Christmas tree is falling over at this very moment.

Today trees are often decorated with LED bulbs. No hot glass bulbs or ones that burned out. Back in my day, if a light bulb burned out the whole string went dark. I wonder how many hours have been spent by moms or dads, going bulb to bulb looking for the bad one. I remember when the color of a bulb was painted on the outside. Each year, the paint on the bulb became more scraped. After a few years, the bulb looked like a cat had used it for a scratching post.

Recently, I saw, on the television, a story that reported if you bring a live Christmas tree into your house, it possibly brings along a thousand bugs. Now, I am not sure how they figured the number of bugs on a live tree. I will have to admit, in my own family's history, a few bugs have emerged from our tree when it was brought into the warmth of our home. But a thousand bugs!!! I find that hard to believe.

Today, I wonder how many people still have live trees in their homes. In order to find the answer, I went to the internet and asked that very question. The answers varied, but it seems in the last thirty years, the need for live trees has drop nearly forty percent. One of the reports also cited that senior citizens are the biggest group opting to use artificial trees. New families still prefer live trees. Two reasons I would suspicion, young children and the need for more bugs in their homes.

Seniors are more about being practical when it comes to Christmas trees. We tend to make decorating a twenty minute exercise. Pull the artificial tree out of the box and plug it in and WALLAinstant LED Christmas tree. No more dragging the tree in the house, losing needles and bugs along the ways. Wrestling it into the tree stand that won't keep it up straight. Then hanging light bulbs that need to be repaired. Four hours later, a wonder of lights and bulbs to behold. In our home, an artificial tree, twenty minutes and a wonder of a plastic tree is there to behold and no bugs.

I am old enough to remember the wonders of aluminum metal icicles. Before today's invention of safe modern icicles, they were made from old pop cans. Each year, we opened the icicles and hung the silver metal strips onto our tree. A couple of times, an aluminum icicle was accidentally laid over a light bulb, it touched the metal part of the bulb, instant electrical flash. Ah nothing like the smell of burnt Christmas tree bulbs in the morning!

Of all the decorations in our homes, we probably remember the tree with the most wonder. I remember getting up on Christmas morning, and the tree would be all aglow after Santa had visited. At the time, I didn't realize the following month the bills showed up, so my parents could spend the next year paying for the wonders that jolly old Santa had left under the tree.

The real neat thing about Christmas from yesteryear, the gifts were under the tree, wrapped in boxes. A kid could shake and rattle the gift box until they nearly wore the paper from the package. I wonder how many kids have damaged their hearing holding the gift box so tightly to their ear, listening for a hint of what was inside.

Today, that quest for what is inside has vanished in many cases. A simple envelope with a gift card inside has replaced those gift boxes of my day. Ah, the joy of opening an Amazon card and going on line to get whatever it will buy. What will the Christmas Elves think of next?

I think we have lost something important in our lives when it comes to Christmas trees. They were once part of the annual family tradition of decorating for a special morning. Below their branches, wide eyed kids tried to figure out what hidden treasures were inside the boxes sealed with red bows. Finally, on Christmas morning the joy of looking to see what gifts Santa had left under the tree. I know that there are still families with these traditions, but I suspect not as many as there were at one time in our history.

As Christmas approaches I hope your tree is gleaming with lights. Whether artificial or a real tree, I hope it stands in a place of honor in your homes. And most important, it is topped with an angel or star. Maybe a tree top decoration that has been handed down from generation to generation.

Christmas trees can be about memories from our pasts. I hope that each of your memories are of a time when a Christmas tree filled your world with joy and hope for the New Year. For my family and myself, I find joy in those Christmas memories as I look back Through the Lens.

 
 
 

 

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