I grew up in a Jewish family, so Christmas trees aren’t part of my childhood holiday memories.
I was always jealous of families who had them, but having one in our house was a strict no-no. We were reform, but not that reform. We stuck to our own traditions and visited friends who had Christmas trees.
When I was a teenager, I had a potted Norfolk Pine tree in my room and in one of my rare acts of teenage rebellion, I actually decorated that 2-foot-high tree one year — of course only with white lights and blue and white tinsel, so, hey, it could have been a “Hanukkah bush”. Some pitiful rebellion, eh?
It’s not that I wanted to celebrate Christmas, per se. I knew from friends that I was lucky to celebrate Hanukkah. After all, Hanukkah meant EIGHT. WHOLE. DAYS. OF. GIFTS.
I just loved the tree. The incongruity of the outdoors being inside. The sparkling lights at night. The memories rehashed with each ornament placed on the boughs. The place of gift concentration, where packages were piled high so that you could ogle them. Wonder. Guess. Hope.
Christmas trees became part of my life twenty years ago when I married someone who celebrates Christmas. And now, in addition to all those traditions I imagined that were part of having a Christmas tree in the house, I know about other, less obvious ones.
Like going to the tree farm with the old friends, year after year. Dogs, kids, friends, strangers.
Rambling in the snow, running from tree to tree, to find the “perfect one”.
And maybe finding the perfect one for a few years from now.
Helping each other cut down the trees, and then dragging or (in some cases) carrying them to the car.
Then going to one home or the other to warm our wind-burned ears and fingers, eat good food, laugh, play games, and talk about years past, when the kids were smaller, and we had an earlier generation of dogs, and when our friendship was newer, but never better.