Saturday, November 30, 2013

'Tis the Season

O tannenbaum, o tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine blatter!
O tannenbaum, o tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine blatter!
Du grunst nicht nur zur sommerzeit,
Nein, auch im winter, wenn est schneit.
O tannenbaum, o tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine blatter!

Nearly everyone who celebrates Christmas does SOME kind of Christmas decorating.  A tree, a string of lights, a wreath on the door, hanging a few Christmas cards.  For lots of us religion doesn't matter; Christmas has adopted everyone.  That's pretty fitting because it's been stealing traditions for a very long time.

Chainmaille Ornament - Click to Purchase
Evergreen trees have had deep meaning for people for ages; they resisted the darkness of winter and refused to shed their leaves.  They seemed magical when everything else withered and died.  So naturally, they became associated with solstice celebrations and the return of longer days.  

Saint Boniface was a dude that lived in Germany, where there was a tree that was holy to the pagans who lived there - Thor's Oak.  (sometimes called Donar's Oak).  It was associated with Yggdrasil, the World Tree.  Boniface talked smack about Thor and started to chop the tree down.  Suddenly, a wind came (legend says) and took the tree down before he could cut it... and immediately an evergreen sprang up out of the four parts of the tree.  Since Thor did not strike Boniface down, the people converted to Christianity. 

For this the dude was sainted.  

I read this an entirely different way than the ancients probably did, but whatever.  Miracles are always open to interpretation, right?

Awesome Ornament Hooks - Click to Purchase

Martin Luther is also reported to have been so inspired by the pretty stars twinkling through the branches of the pines that he chopped one down and took it home and put candles on it in an attempt to recreate his experience for his family.   Fire hazard, right?  I am very thankful for LED Christmas lights.  

The Christmas tree as we know and love it really didn't come into vogue until the middle 1800s, that age that we take sooooo much of our tradition and weird hang-ups from.  Also lots of terribly skewed history  (Longfellow, I'm talking to you).

Clear ornament with Wire Wrapped Tree - Click to purchase

No matter.  Christmas is cool.  I spent a lot of years not celebrating and I am currently doing my best to make up for it.  I LOVE Christmas.  I love putting up my tree, hanging ornaments and telling stories about each one.  Seems like every one has a story.  (Which is why I think those fancy, heavy-gauge ornament hooks are awesome... check those out.  I don't know about your ornaments, but mine deserve the best).  

My hubby is usually not terribly enthused about the tree-putting-up ritual, for two reasons:  1)  he's a mailman... I haven't met too many who love this time of year and 2)  he despises glitter.   So my son, now in college, comes home for the tree decorating, and the two of us put up a tree while listening to lots of Nat King Cole and similar sappy old favorites.  Lights, garland, strings of beads, bows, star  (no tinsel... cats and tinsel baaaaad).  And then we turn the lights down, cozy up on the couch with a mug of hot chocolate, and reminisce.  It's absolute magic.  And I get up early the next day to look at the lights softly twinkling before I turn the room lights on.  And I do it again when I play Santa on Christmas morning, admiring the sparkling packages under the tree lights, dozing there until my family wakes up.

Martin Luther, I think I get it.