by Richard L. Burguet •
My family has a tradition that I began many years ago, and it has become legendary. It is the tradition of the annual post Thanksgiving, Christmas tree acquisition. Now there is a reason I call this acquisition, not necessarily buying, nor even cutting. Here are a few highlights from the years.
Being a pastor, my family and I have moved to new places several times. Our homes have always had one constant at the holidays: a fresh cut Christmas tree. How that tree was selected though, has varied dramatically over the years. Like the year it was decided that my son and I would go out to a piece of property we leased, and find and cut our own “wild” Christmas tree. The long story, shortened is this: we couldn’t find one. But being the men we are, knew how to problem solve. With a nod to the value of duct tape, and bailing wire we decided to cut two cedar trees and fasten them together with the tape and wire. It was a glorious moment of manly comradery as my son and I cut the second tree, and bound the two together. We might have actually pulled off the “two into one” idea if they had not come apart bringing them through the front door. My wife and three daughters were aghast at the “beauty” of the tree! I’m still reminded of that one every year about this time of the season by my girls.
True confessions, now. The “two in one” tree thing was not original with me, but was actually an ancient family tradition passed down to me by my father. My parents lived in Houston, and had a home with a high cathedral ceiling. So dad decided one of the young pine trees nearby would fill the space nicely. He came home with a thirty foot pine tree top. A little trimming and everything in the house smelled woodsy and like Christmas. My mother and my wife thought it was atrocious. I have continued the “family tradition” to the best of my ability.
Then there was the post Thanksgiving drive home from West Virginia Christmas tree cutting episode. The “women folk” of my clan, seeking to avoid one of my fantastic tree selection “specials”, spotted signs for a Christmas Tree Farm as we were returning home from a family celebration. The first problem is that it is cold and snows in the mountains of West Virginia. The second problem is getting the four women in my family to agree on the “perfect tree” an insurmountable task, apparently. So, after several hours in the snow, saw in cold hand, trudging up and down the hills of a tree-farm; I had enough! I found a tree, explained to them the beauty of this tree, laid down in the snow and cut it down. Did you know those trees are sold by the foot? Now, my wallet much lighter, I strapped that thing to the roof, and drove the rest of the way home on the interstate. It still looked pretty good when we got it home, except that it leaned to one side rather seriously. I think the ground we cut it off of may not have been flat?
Oh, there are more tales to tell, but I won’t expand them here. Nowadays the only controversy is over how tall, what species, and how perfectly shaped the tree will be. There are lots of laughs and reminders. Our holiday tradition is far beyond tree selection. It is about memories of growing up, memories of family laughter and consternation, and celebrating the great things God has done in each of our lives, in spite of our silly ideas. We still do the Christmas tree acquisition together, and will continue to for as long as we can, but now it is really more about celebrating God’s faithfulness to our family. This is just one of a few “holiday traditions” that we have. They are all about being together, about remembering the past, about laughter and good natured fun, and simply being together with each other. Those traditions give us a “reason” to drop the distractions that crowd life with obligations and appointments and focus on being a family in relationship with each other.
These family traditions are an opportunity to pass on to our children the value of being family, and the heritage and memories that make up the patchwork quilt of our history. This is what makes us unique. It is a time to actually be face to face, and revel in the joys of the season of Thanksgiving, Christmas and a New Year. It is a great time to reflect on how God has sustained us as a loving family through this last calendar year, and indeed over our generations. Now that my family is grown, and living in other cities, we have an excuse to be together, that can not be neglected. After all, if they don’t show up here for Thanksgiving, who is there to prevent dad from acquiring another “beautiful” (not to mention free) Christmas tree?
Published in the December 2013 issue of Healthy Living Magazine