The Christmas Tree

Posts 04

Holiday traditions are important to my family.  I must admit, this makes me happy.  In a world where I fight with YouTube or TikTok for my teenagers’ attention I will happily take their interest in baking cookies and decorating the tree. Most years it is a struggle to carve out a few hours of time when everyone can be home and available to decorate. December is usually jam packed with activities.  There are holiday concerts for the school chorus and orchestra, festive youth group activities, secret Santa exchanges, cookie baking parties…and so on.  The school semester is also winding up and I have four kids scrambling to finish projects and study for finals.  It can be hectic.  I am typically dreaming about a calm household right about now.  This makes me think of what my mother often told me: be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.


In many ways, this December has been the one I’ve always dreamed of.  We have slowed down.  We have been able to spend time together as a family.  We listen to Christmas music while the six of us eat dinner together.  Family dinners are one of those things that get increasingly hard to manage as kids get older, busier, and mobile with a car. I have enjoyed the return of all of us gathering around the table. The kids want to come with me to walk the dog or look at a sunset.  They hang out with me in the kitchen while I cook dinner.  I know I should be soaking this up.  I should be cherishing this time with them, but it has come with a cost.  We have had family members infected by the coronavirus.  We have faced isolation and loneliness as we distance ourselves from vulnerable loved ones. We have changed so many things about how we live, and that is not always easy.


The family took great interest in the Christmas tree this year.  We started off by building anticipation because we couldn’t get a tree.  We were in quarantine.  By the time we were clear to leave the house and be around people again, it was almost a week into December.  I’m not sure if it was because we were late shoppers this year or if it was due to increased pandemic demand for Christmas trees, but the selection available to us was a little sad.  No matter.  We were out of quarantine, out of the house, and on a mission!  My husband and I chose a tree (it didn’t look that bad at the nursery), picked up some poinsettias, and hit the checkout.  It was all very quick and easy.  For the record, it doesn’t take an hour of wandering around trying to find the best tree when you only have a handful of them to choose from. The workers loaded it onto the roof of my SUV for us and off we went. We made it back to the house without incident.

There was much interest in the tree upon arrival at the house.  Excited faces looked at me in expectation.  We made short order of getting it into the house and secured in the Christmas tree stand.  And then we just stood there looking at it.  One of the kids broke the silence, “It’s kind of small.  And crooked.  Why did you get this tree?” My response was something to the effect of, “You should have seen the other ones.  This one looks good.”  They were not impressed, but we soldiered on.  We commenced decorating.  The first part of this endeavor is that my oldest daughter and I put the lights on.  I love using lots and lots of multicolored lights.  She is a good helper and we made quick work of it. The next step is putting the angel on the top.  This involves a yearly discussion with my son about tree topper choices.  He wants a star.  I want the angel.  Tradition wins, but I let him climb the step ladder and place the angel on top.  She looks like she’s hovering off to the side of the tree.  That top vertical branch is bent kind of sideways.  It’s an interesting look. And like 2020, not quite normal.


Our family spent a nice afternoon decorating the tree.  We reminisced about the individual ornaments.  We have a family favorite from Goats on the Roof, a cloth soldier ornament from England, and a plethora of handmade popsicle stick reindeer and coffee filter angels.  The kids especially like the homemade one  that includes a very unflattering photo of me in fifth grade. Sure, there was some arguing about who gets to put an ornament up, and about whose fault it was when an ornament got bumped and fell to the floor. It was a nice afternoon, not a perfect one.


That night I sat in the living room, dark except for the lights on the tree.  I used to love doing this as a child.  Although then I would rest on the floor with my head nearly under the lower branches.  There is something magical about the glow of those lights. As a girl, I would be excited about presents and cookies and Santa.  Even now, at the end of what has been a very difficult year, I find the glow of the lights to bring happiness.  It feels like home and love and family.  It brings me peace and comfort.  This is the perspective I want to hold onto.


I know after Christmas, when it is time to take the tree down, I will not feel that warm fuzzy feeling when I see all the lights on the tree.  I might bemoan all of the work it takes to get the house put back in order.  I will worry that I will miss taking off one of the special family ornaments and that it will end up on the curb still tucked away in the branches of the tree.  But here’s the secret: this is the same Christmas tree that brought a smile to my face.  It hasn’t suddenly turned into a bad thing.  The reality is that our tree will likely have to exit the house soon after Christmas.  It hasn’t been taking up much water.  It is hanging in there though.  I think it will make it through the holiday.


I think we will make it through the holiday as well.  It has been a hard year.  This year has given us many things we did not want.  Unexpectedly, it has also given me a gift. It has opened my eyes to the importance of perspective. I want to live my life looking at things the right way.  I want to focus on the glowing lights of the tree, not the Christmas tree haul away.  Even in the darkest of days, a little light can make us feel better.

John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  As we celebrate Christmas this year, may we remember that Jesus is our light.  He shines in the darkness.  Let us turn our eyes and our hearts toward his loving light.  May you all have a Merry Christmas and may the New Year be filled with love, gratitude, and a little bit of perspective.


For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

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  1. Pat says:

    What beautiful sentiments, Amy. It has been a challenging year for everyone, but let’s hope that Christmas brings a little joy to everyone.
    Love you and Merry Christmas to you and all the family.

    • Amy Chastain says:

      Thanks, Aunt Pat! It was a nice and quiet Christmas. We are all looking forward to positive change in the New Year. Love to all of the family!

  2. Aaron Moore says:

    Amy, your Christmas tree decorating experience sounds so much more ordered than ours was. Praise God for the simple things and the moments of reflection to appreciate them. Thanks for writing and inspiring us!

  3. Mary Ellen Volansky says:

    Happy and Healthy Christmas and New Year to you and your Family!

  4. Betty says:

    I love all of your blogs and stories. They are always from your heart and will either make me laugh or cry wht en reading them. The tipsy angel will be long remembered and a favorite memory of how you kept a sense of humor through the trying times of 2020

  5. I’m a Christmas tree light watcher like you are. I always feel a bit sad when the tree comes down.

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