I remember a Christmas ......
.... when I started a new tradition.
We always had our Christmas tree in the recreation room because there was enough space for all of us. There were seven in our family and then whoever else, my mother-in-law, my parents, various friends or other family members. We needed the space in that room to spread out. The rec room was in the basement. It was perfect with a fireplace, a couple couches and an assortment of chairs to sit on. The only problem is that no one saw the lights of the tree from outside. You know how it is .... the Christmas tree has to be placed near a window to share the pretty lights with everyone.
So I got the bright idea to have a second tree, a small one in the living room. It sat in the bay window, and was a nice addition, something that we enjoyed while upstairs. I decorated it with some antique ornaments handed down from both sides of the family for several years.
One year I added something else. I don't remember what instigated it. I took some old, plain glass balls and wrote the names of the family on them with glitter. When it came time to decorate, each person hung his/her ball on the tree, and if someone was not there, we hung theirs for them, giving us a sense of his/her presence with us. If we had a new guest spending the holiday, I made one for that person, and (s)he was asked to add it. Over several years, the number of colored glass balls on the tree grew, and it became really full.
After a while the glass balls, which were becoming very worn, were replaced with satin wrapped balls with the names done with beads and tiny pins. And the number continued to grow. The tree was extremely full.
The really neat part of this is that it was a way in which we had our loved ones with us even when they couldn't be there in person. As time has worn on, it has continued to be an important part of Christmas for me. Now I do just one tree because my space is limited. I simply add the "name balls" to my regular Christmas tree. It is a nice feeling when I hang these, especially those of my mom and dad, now gone for over eight years; my mother-in-law who left this world 17 years ago; an aunt gone now 10 years; a dear friend and former pastor from 20 years ago; my husband who passed away three years ago is one of the more recent. This little tradition that began with our immediate little family grew into something that is a really special holder-of-memories.
As I hang each one I hang on the tree, I have special thoughts of that person, whether they have passed on to the other side, or just not able to be with me this year. It is a bittersweet tradition, and one that I couldn't appreciate any more than I do. And it really warms my heart.