TAKING DOWN THE TREE or
THE TREE IS DEAD – LONG LIVE THE TREE!
Today is January 2nd. At last, the holidays, which began some five to nine weeks ago, are over (depending on whether you started counting on Halloween or Thanksgiving). This is our traditional day for taking down the Christmas tree. It is the death knell of the old year. Time to put the ornaments back down in the basement, put away the holiday dishes and the cute little mugs with Santa’s sleigh on them. Time to take down the beautiful green wreath and carefully put away the big, red, velvet bow that graces the Christmas wreath every year. These are melancholy tasks. The saddest moment of all is when we have to drag our seven-foot evergreen out the front door, down the steps, and cut it up into pieces small enough to be placed in the green dumpster on the street for recycling. It hurts my heart.
I tell myself, of course, that the tree was dead to begin with. When it comes right down to it, we buy ourselves an enormous cut flower arrangement every year which graces our living room for several weeks. By cut flower standards, that’s an eternity. And we are so lucky to have had this one for as long as we did. Every year when we finish decorating the tree I tell Art that it is the most beautiful tree we have ever had, and every year it is true. I think that’s because every year I come to appreciate the tree and its symbolism more and more.
Every year at exactly the same time the world celebrates the birth of a baby. Even Jewish people such as myself find it hard to resist the pull of such a holiday. It’s not just the festivities, the gifts, or the Christmas tree, but it’s the much deeper meaning of the celebration. It is the celebration of the rhythm of life. It is the acknowledgement that even in the dead of winter, there is hope. We can afford to be generous, because life is bountiful and replenishes itself with the dependability of the earth’s orbit. Winter heralds spring. And that’s where the evergreen comes in. We see the fulfillment of spring’s promise summed up in this sturdy little tree, which offers soft green pine needles and a heavenly aroma – just when we need it the most. The tree is sacrificed so that we can be reminded every year.
So we celebrate a baby’s birth just as it looks like everything is dying around us. This year, with the tragedy of the tsunamis, it couldn’t be more poignant.
But this year when we take down our tree, as every year, she will shed her pine needles all over the carpet as she is carried to the street. The smell of Christmas will be with us for months to come. We will vacuum the floors, but the essence of the holidays will linger until next Halloween, at least, when we will begin thinking about Christmas again.
Yesterday my sister and her “significant lover”, Jesse, were married in their home. There was a beautiful Christmas tree prominently displayed in front of the window. The whole house was decked out in flowers in various shades of dark red and burgundy flanked by greens. A fire blazed in the hearth. The atmosphere was relaxed and guests ranged in age from twin girls of eight months to the family matriarch, my mom, who has asked that we refrain from citing her age. As the winter sun sank in the west, the windows were open to the cool breezes off the ocean. As I knew I would, I wept throughout the ceremony. The feeling was one of overwhelming love, not just between Michele and Jesse, but overflowing from them to the families, and from the families back to them, and from Jesse’s family back to our family, and from our family back to Jesse’s, until there was a complete, happy circle of love all around. It was the end of one life and the beginning of another.
I imagine that like us, Michele and Jesse will be taking down their Christmas tree soon. The one they bought when they were single will be recycled, but next year it will be reincarnated in all its splendor as they approach the first Christmas of their brand new married life together. They couldn’t have picked a better day for a wedding.
© 2005, Robin Munson