Traditions run deep in my family. For many years, the day after Thanksgiving was the day our homes were decorated and prepared for Christmas. My mom was a fanatic when it came to decorating for all occasions but the Christmas season was always her favorite. Boxes and boxes of ornate, traditional décor were brought from her special hiding places and the journey began. As she delicately unwrapped each piece, you could tell by her expression there was a significant meaning for each one. Some pieces dated back to when she was a little girl and they progressed to more recent times. There were some my sister and I made in school and still others that she received as gifts throughout the years. It was uncanny how she found just the right places among the branches of the tree for each ornament.
My intentions were to decorate my tree this past Friday also. I’ll have to admit, for several years now this “decorating day” has been pretty good to me in the whitetail woods. This success in the swamp pushed my decorating forward a couple of days. This year was different. Though I was home to begin the endeavors, the caliche dust from the Texas panhandle compromised my intentions. Instead of preparing my home for the most special time of the year, I kept myself full of decongestants and massaged my hip from the decadron injection. My chest rattled like an old turkey gobbler pronouncing his authority from a cypress limb at daylight. Though I didn’t feel like starting the process, at least I could plan and think about what I wanted on my tree and what each ornament would represent. I began to read about the significance of decorating the Christmas tree.
Legend has it that the Christmas tree dates back to somewhere around the seventh century. It is believed that St. Boniface, in his attempt to convert pagan tribes to Christianity, used the triangular shape of a fir tree to explain the holy trinity. Evergreens are typically used as Christmas trees to represent everlasting life instead of a deciduous tree that goes dormant in winter with no signs of life. The ornaments themselves each have a spiritual meaning. I will describe the significance in the same order as I decorate my tree.
I begin with lights. I prefer the white lights now, but in my childhood I loved those big colored bulbs. I still can’t believe the tree never erupted in flames as hot as those old bulbs got. The lights on the tree represent the stars in the night sky when Christ was born. The wraps or tinsel we use indicate the sparks of fire that Joseph built to keep Jesus and Mary warm. I have a vast assortment of ornaments which include bells, balls, pinecones, owls, and who knows what else. Christmas balls, as legend has it, indicates an analogy of heaven and all of the precious jewels that descend from there. Owls represent the wisdom of the three kings. Pinecones signify fertility and motherhood. Candy canes have significance as well. They remind us of the Shepherd’s staff as they were the first to witness the birth of Jesus. The Christmas bow means we should be tied together in goodwill. I finish my tree with placing the star on top. Of course we all know this symbolizes the star of Bethlehem.
In addition to my timeless pieces, I try to add a few new ornaments each year to my tree. This year I have added pieces that I think add life back to the tree from the woods. Several tail feathers from gobblers past are resting upon the branches of the fir. In fact, a few drake mallard tail feathers also found a place among the other ornaments. Several antler sheds add a new dimension to the branches. I think they fit quite nicely into the various forks on the tree. I have a weathered Faulk’s duck call that may add character as well. The lanyard will drape over the limbs just fine. I could even add a band to the lanyard from a wood duck from year’s past. I don’t want to get to “gawdy” but a couple of my dad’s old camp buttons may reflect some of the brilliant lights in a different perspective. I could add old shell casings, a string of acorns, and even some old bass lures to the mix. Of course, Chloe and Lacey will have their ornaments in a prominent place among the branches even as they sleep among the packages. They already know which packages are theirs.
Do you have favorite ornaments that bring a smile to you as you prepare your home for Christmas? I would invite you to add a few items that come from your special places in the woods that you frequent. I think cattails would be nice if you’re the die-hard waterfowler. Dog whistles and collars from those beloved hunting companions that may no longer be with us would bring cherished memories back to you from the field. Maybe you have your grandfather’s pipe. I’m sure you could wedge it between the branches. What else can you think of that would add meaning to your tree? Take your family to the woods and see what everyone could come up with. If you find something really novel, I sure like to hear about it. Enjoy your time decorating with your family. I’m positive the memories will be everlasting.
Until next time enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.