Trimming the tree. Baking cookies. Hanging out the stockings. Sending greetings. Welcoming visitors. Wrapping presents. Singing carols… The list of Christmas activities goes on and on. Some of these traditions have been part of my celebration of the holidays for as long as I can remember. Others, like sending cards, are off and on again activities, depending on my store of time and energy. Some endure year after year because “it just wouldn’t be Christmas without it.”
The Christmas tree seems to be one of those traditions. Trimming the tree is a great opportunity in which to recall memories and to cherish the people in my life. I inherited some of our ornaments from my mother, who loved Christmas above all other seasons of the year. A good deal more were gifts from her and from other members of my family. A cherished few were made by my children when they were small while others were picked up on travels with Ron over the years. A family Christmas tree tells a profound story.
In the O Antiphons – the prayers that celebrate the Octave of Christmas (December 17-24) – I particularly love the reference to the “Root of Jesse.” It refers to the lineage of Jesus, which stretches back to King David and his father, Jesse. Since this antiphon falls on my father’s birthday (December 19), it brings to mind the importance of ancestral heritage.
While the Christmas tree in our living room is no longer attached to the earth, it still retains a semblance of roots that stretch back into my family history. Plugging in the lights each evening is a delight as they illuminate the space around us with warmth and color.
After the Christmas season comes to an end on January 13th, I will pack away the ornaments with the hope that I will live to celebrate the season when it comes round again and that, in the meantime, the roots of my faith will continue to grow and to anchor themselves in both memory and promise. In such a way, the tree has come to represent Christmas past, present, and future. No wonder it’s a tradition I hold sacred.
Initiate a conversation with your family or class about your favorite holiday traditions. How do they bring together a sense of past, present, and future?
Learn more about the season of Christmas and consider how you will extend the celebration of this sacred season past December 25th.