Last weekend my family and I should have driven up the mountain to choose and cut down our Christmas tree. We have cut down a Christmas tree every year since 1997. No matter where we’ve lived—even in the ugly Christmas tree climates, namely Texas and North Carolina (the sandhills, not the mountains)—we have searched out the Christmas Tree farm, piled in Superman’s aging black Chevy, driven as far as necessary, and walked the rows until finding “the one.” The tree that will grace our living room for the season. For seventeen years now. That’s a lot of trees.
More significantly, it’s a lot of tradition now deeply rooted into our family’s Christmastime DNA.
At least that is what I thought.
But, last weekend when I asked the kids how they really felt about driving to the top of Bent Mountain to choose and cut the Team Dragovich Christmas tree for 2014, they shrugged and made noises of ambivalence.
“I don’t care, Mom what do you think?”
“We don’t need a real tree. Where would we put it? I mean, this house doesn’t really have a good Christmas tree spot anyway. At least not to go to all the work of cutting down a real tree.”
“Driving up the mountain gives me a headache. Besides, we already have one tree set up in the basement with all the kids’ ornaments on it. I’m good with that.”
It’s true. In and effort to be done with the decorating, I pulled our fake tree from the attic and decorated it myself while everyone was at school. Normally, it is a whole family affair: snacks, hot chocolate, Christmas music (or TV specials), and decorating the Christmas tree—one Hallmark ornament from its box at a time. I was half expecting outrage when they came home and saw I had done it all without them.
But no one cared. They never even made mention of it. When I told them I had set aside some of their favorites and the new ornament from Papa (their great-grandfather: the perpetrator of the Hallmark ornament tradition) for the year, they accepted the responsibility with indifference. Oh, they ooh’d and aah’d over the newest additions to their tree and stood for a moment finding their other old favorites. Then, they turned on their heels and walked back up the stairs, asking for a snack and if they could go outside and play with the neighbor kids.
At first, I was relieved that no one cared about the real Christmas Tree tradition. I am happy to have a year free from pine needles, strands of lights, and the extra mess to clean on New Year’s Day. But then I wondered at how easily they had dismissed it. Seventeen years of tradition discarded like a pair of worn socks; the effort of mending overwhelming the virtue of frugality.
There is much goodness that comes from our family Christmas Tree decorating: stories on the origins of old ornaments, time actually conversing with one another. Not to mention it’s something they do together that is unplugged. But my children have been wholly unbothered by this lessening of tradition and seem as peace-filled as ever. They were more concerned that we not forget to light the Advent candles during our morning devotions.
That was over a week ago, and maybe I’ve come to my final conclusion foolishly…but I don’t think so. I am glad my children were able to discard our tree tradition so easily. When turned over on all its sides, I see now that my concern stemmed more from hurt feelings that this thing I had so doggedly kept alive year after year seemed unappreciated—I felt unappreciated. But they don’t see it that way at all. We are a busy family all year long. During the holidays, none of the regular busyness takes a rest so that the holiday traditions can be savored. It all becomes just one more thing. My children, in their easiness of letting go, showed me that our family is stronger than the traditions we keep. Christmas will not be less because we fore-go some of the Christmas tinsel—rather, it will be more.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”
Copyright 2014 by Shari L. Dragovich