Here's a picture, if you are having difficulty imagining it:
Every year, sometime after Thanksgiving, we set up our tree. Early on, when it was just Dave and me, it would sometimes not even get set up until Christmas Eve (and then, only to appease my mother-in-law--who LOVES Christmas and considers it tantamount to blasphemy to not have a tree). Anyway, it used to be an enormous chore--spend 2 hours setting up tree, gaze at it for 5 minutes with the room lights off, worry for the next however-many days that the house would catch on fire, and then spend 2 hours post-Christmas taking it all down. It all seemed a bit cumbersome.
And then I had my first kid. . .
And then I had my daughter. . .
My daughter LOVES Christmas. I don't know where she gets it from, really. It must be some sort of mutated gene--I did eat a lot of tuna when I was pregnant with her. Anyway, she loves Christmas. We can hardly get the turkey carcass off the counter on Thanksgiving Day before she is asking when we are going to put up the tree. So, I decided very early on, that I had better embrace this thing--like it or not.
Right after Dave and I got married, we made this really strange decision to buy a Christmas ornament that would symbolize that particular year in our life. It was a weird decision, really. I'm still not sure how it was that I agreed to such a thing. Even worse, I think it may have actually been my idea! I'm pretty convinced that he somehow drugged me using mind-altering pharmaceuticals disguised in my morning coffee, but I simply have no proof of that. So, for the sake of this discussion, I will acquiesce that it was, indeed, my idea.
Well, some number of years later (probably about 4 or 5), I realized, while we were setting up the tree, we had actually amassed quite a large number of "ornaments of significance". We had the "Our Wedding" ornament (gag--it actually has two doves kissing under a heart), a whole host of "Nativity Characters" (courtesy of my in-laws, who, knowing that their grandchildren were being raised by wolves, were bound and determined to exert undue influence in this arena), and of course the cheap little ornaments with my kids' cute little faces that had been made in either Sunday School, Mother's Day Out, or some other group kid-setting that had craft time.
I know. I, too, am as shocked as you are that this monstrosity has an existence within my home! Ugh!
As we were placing these eclectic little hodge-podge of ornaments onto our tree, we all had a fun walk down memory lane. Dave and I were able to tell the stories to our kids about all the crazy little dangling works of art. There was the stingray ornament that we purchased while on a mission trip to Belize (that signified the day Dave and I had the privilege of swimming with Stingrays). There was the roller blade ornament (Dave and I went roller blading the very first day we met), and of course the iPod ornament that signified the year that I finally entered the age of digital entertainment.
The kids especially liked seeing all the little "art projects" from years past with their funny little younger kid-faces on them. It was then that I realized that I kind of liked (and gasp: yes, even looked forward to) this small window of time every year. It also spurred me to be more intentional about looking for the "big events" every year in the life of our family.
There are a number of web-based companies that offer digital photo uploads and creation of ornaments: Wal Mart, Snapfish, Walgreens, Shutterfly, Mpix, etc. So, in recent years I have actually had ornaments made with our family photos on them--since the kids (and adults) really enjoy the walk down memory lane with the pictures, especially. One word of caution: you might want to avoid the glass or porcelain ornaments, as they do shatter when dropped. Sadly, I have had a few casualties in these designs.
Of course, my in-laws, now giddy with excitement at having prevailed in this one small (okay, maybe it was a pretty HUGE) victory over Christmas, have now made it their mission in life to add to our ever-growing collection. I have to admit, they do pick out some pretty rockin' ornaments to give the kids every year. My personal favorite: the Millenium Falcon ornament that plugs in and lights up!
Well, as much as it pains me to say it, the 3rd Anderson Christmas tradition is our Christmas tree. My kids love it. We have a lot of fun and laughter every year setting it up, and I have to admit, it really has grown on me these past few years.
So, I hope you find fun memories of your family tucked away behind the pre-lit branches of your own tree this year. And have a very, Merry Christmas!