Our Christmas Tree Ritual

By Kevin Devlin

   I always knew when it was time to go out and buy our family Christmas tree, the one that would play a special part in our lives over the holiday season, when I saw the red and green tree holder lying on the parlor floor. My father, along with my brothers and I, would walk up to Dorchester Avenue to purchase that perfect tree.  

   In the sixties and seventies, up and down the avenue, there were always empty lots that were seemingly transformed, in seconds, into temporary open-air Christmas tree outlets. My father would take his time and proudly choose what he considered, a flawless, symmetrically shaped, wholesome holiday tree

My father would let my brothers and I help him decorate the tree, but he made sure we all clearly understood that this was his project, and we would follow his lead and instructions throughout the entire operation.  

   The lights and ornaments were stored away down the cellar, and would be cautiously brought up into the living room, and placed carefully on the couch. The ornaments, preciously maintained for years, were all individually and carefully wrapped in old newspaper and tissue, to safeguard them against being broken.

The lights would be the first to be strung up on the tree. Six, eight and sometimes as many as ten sets of lights would be put on the tree. He would start from the bottom, and go up and around the branches of the tree to the top. My father would then check each individual light and make sure every light was tightly in the socket, and in good working order. He would then replace whatever bulbs necessary.      

Blue, red, green, white, yellow, and orange lights were now in place, and would eventually light up the tree like fireworks on the Fourth of July. 

   The ornaments came next. Beautiful, bright and shiny ornaments depicting the glory, excitement, and enthusiasm of the Christmas celebration. Each ornament was carefully selected and hung in its designated area. Each ornament complemented the other, like the musical sounds of instruments in a symphony orchestra; and would magnify the tree light effect through their brilliant and distinct reflections.

   The garland, along with the glittering, silver tinsel, would then be placed on the branches of the tree. This was my favorite part of the entire undertaking. Shining brightly, the stringy tinsel would hang down from the branches like chilling icicles, visibly and strikingly pointing downward from the rooftops on a frigid, wintry day.

   The final phase, the piece de resistance, was to place the beautiful, snow-white angel on top of the tree. An Angel of God overlooking the safety and security of the family during this season of peace, love and giving.

After spending the better part of the day slowly and painstakingly piecing together (with our limited assistance) his masterpiece, our Dad would sternly warn us not to touch or go too close to the tree, lest we cause a disturbance that would alter the delicate balance of the finished product.    

   So, with his tree complete and his message conveyed, we would have our own tree lighting ceremony.  

And without failure, throughout those (now) cherished years, we would all simultaneously nod in silent, happy recognition, that Dad had indeed again captured the essence of the holiday, and produced yet another glorious and stunning Christmas tree.

(This Christmas Tree Story first appeared in SBOL in December 1998