Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's Not About the Size of the Tree

The first Christmas after we moved into our house—feeling extremely festive and perhaps overly excited about the vaulted cathedral ceiling in our living room—we bought a new artificial Christmas tree. (I know, artificial isn’t nearly as awesome as real. But I have this thing where I’m pretty much incapable of keeping plants alive indoors. My thumbs are black, not green. And we prefer to not burn down our house.)

The thing is twelve feet tall, before decorations. (No, I am not joking. Yes, I am crazy. And before you ask, I probably won’t buy one quite this big ever again. It requires an insane amount of time to set up and take down. But I love the end result.)

Anyway, that first year when the tree was up and decorated, one of my new neighbors made an offhanded comment that was something like, “Wow, how will the rest of us ever keep up with that?”

Even though it was said in a joking tone, those words stung deep. Our choice of tree was not about competition. It was about joy. Joy for being in our new house, joy for the season and everything it meant, and joy for being able to make our family celebration as big or as tall as we chose to make it.Or on the other side of that coin, as simple or as small.

The day we walked into Costco and saw the tree, my kids squealed in delight, and their eyes lit up with sparkles. And funny enough, the cost turned out to be significantly less than many of the other trees we’d looked at that day. It was a good purchase that has lasted seven years and counting.

But every year when I’m decorating this monstrosity, that particular comment comes back and reminds me why I do things the way I choose, and why I don’t do them the way other people would have me do.

Regardless of what some might think, Christmas spirit is not determined by the size of your tree (or the number of lights) any more than a man’s masculinity is determined by the size of his truck or SUV. Any more than a woman’s worth is determined by her ability to sew or cook or clean house. (Yeah, that last one is so cliché it’s ridiculous. Forgive me for that. I’m lacking in all those departments.)

There was not a lit Christmas tree in Bethlehem or lights circling the roof of the stable. No gifts wrapped in expensive paper. No Black Friday shopping days. There was a family, experiencing quiet moments of pure, unadulterated joy.

Our tree could be a one-foot twig for all that it matters. We’d still find joy within the quiet warmth of our family. The only difference is it wouldn’t be quite so visible to the rest of the world.

What do you think? Does the size of your tree really matter? And do you really care what the neighbors think?

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7 comments:

Angela Felsted said...

Oh, how sweet. What a nice message. I bet whoever said that about your tree would feel really bad if they knew how it came across.

Tess said...

I used to think I would have a "formal tree" but now love the little handmade ornaments and pictures and strung popcorn my children drape all over the branches. It is my cup of tea and - you're right - it doesn't matter what anyone else does or thinks. It is about our family and how we express our joy. Well said@

Nichole Giles said...

I agree, Tess! We have handmade ornaments and photo frame ones with my kids school pictures for every year of their lives. Very few of them actually match. But I don't care. I could never not put out my kids' ornaments. They are why I have such a tree in the first place.

Angela, you're right. I think that person would. But it's a good reminder, too. Keeps me grounded. Turned out to be a helpful comment, know what I mean?

Thanks ladies.

WindyA said...

I love this post! I come from a family of "one-uppers" where everything is about size and brand - the house you buy, the car you drive, the jeans you wear, and yes, even the size of your Christmas tree. My husband and I never fell into that mindset and lucky for us, our kids don't really care either. It's just about what makes us happy and we are perfectly fine with our little artificial 6 ft tree that is gigantic to the kids and manageable enough that I don't mind the work to put it up and take it down every year. I do see how that comment can sting, because right after we bought our tiny little house a few years ago, so many in our family basically turned their noses up at us because it wasn't the biggest/newest/brightest house on the block. I was really upset and my husband just asked me if our house made me happy and when I said it did, that took a bit of the edge off because you're right. It's not about anyone else, it's about you and your family. Now that I've written a novel of a comment, I'll end it with this: awesome post.

Shari said...

Our tree isn't even up yet and I still feel the peace and joy of the season. Size doesn't matter.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

We have a very tall tree in our living room as well. Have for years. It's a pain to decorate. I hate swinging around on the ladder trying to put the angel on top, but the joy I saw in my kids eyes and now in my grandkids eyes is worth it. They love it.

L.T. Elliot said...

Anyone who knows you, truly knows you, would know that you don't compete. You live. With undiluted zeal. Anything that appears otherwise is just misunderstanding. I may not know you as well as some but once I learned these things about you, my admiration for you grew limitless. You are an incredible person, Nichole.

Merry Christmas to you and your family. *hugs*