I remember a Christmas growing up in the mountains of upstate New York when things were hard, money was shorter than usual, and my father was not around much. As we approached Christmas that year, it looked like my mother and I were not even going to have a Christmas tree. I was only about twelve or thirteen that year, but the idea of not having a Christmas tree that year just didn’t set well with me, so without my mother knowing I got up early one morning and gathered up a hand saw and my father’s double-bladed axe. It had snowed the night before and it was very cold as it usually was up there that time of year. However, I was determined to have a Christmas tree one way or another, so I trudged through about four inches of snow into the woods behind my house with the saw in one hand and a double-bladed axe over my shoulder. Even being bundled up good I was getting cold, so I knew I had to find a tree soon. The best tree I could find was a tall oddly thick pine tree. I could not use the whole tree because it was too tall, so I climbed half way up the tree carrying the handsaw and cut the top off. I tossed the saw down just before I cut through it all the way and pushed the tree top with my shoulder just enough to make it crack and tumble to the ground. When I got down, I tied the saw and axe on the tree with a piece of rope I had stuck in my pocket and dragged my Christmas tree through the snow to my house about a mile or so away. I was really freezing by the time I got back and my hands because I had to remove my gloves to use the saw felt like they were not far from frostbite, so I went in to get warm and to pull out the tree stand. I told my mother I got tree and she looked at it from the window and said, “I do not think that old pine tree is going to work because the needles are going to fall off quicker.” I said, “I guess will just have to make it last somehow.” After warming back up, I went back outside and shaved the trunk flat, brought it in the house, and stood it up in the tree stand. I looked at it and thought well at least my tree looks better than “Charlie Brown’s.” We decorated the pine tree with just about every decoration and light we had that year and it wound up being one of the best Christmas trees we have ever had and the aspirins we put in the tree water did make those needles stay on into the next year. We didn’t have much more than my “Charlie Brown Christmas tree,” but it still wound up being very special Christmas because we made our own Christmas that year.
When we think about Christmas we need to realize that it isn’t just about Santa Clause, presents, or even Jesus Christ, but about tradition. It is about doing those things your family has always done despite what is going on in your life, the passage of time, or the loss of loved ones and friends along the way. The traditions you follow may seem trivial, or unimportant to anyone else, but they are what makes your holiday season special to you. The little things people and families do every Christmas is where the spirit of this season comes from. I make a Christmas cookie from a recipe that has been in my family for a hundred years around every Christmas. I certainly do not need the cookies because I am diabetic, but it is one of the smells of Christmas I remember as child when my mother made them and others. I have Christmas bulbs on my tree now that have hung on my families Christmas tree since my birth and I am fifty-six years old. They say people are usually a little kinder and gentler this time of year. If you believe that they are, it is not just because it is Jesus’s birthday, but because of all of us following our traditions during this special season and doing the things our families have always done for years. The sights, sounds, smells and everything that is wonderful about this holiday are born out of the traditions of families. Santa Clause is alive in the hearts of small children and the spirit of Christmas is alive and well in the hearts of many during this season because of things big and small that families throughout history have always done. We make this wonderful season what it is to us by the little things we do every year. It doesn’t take much to make a Christmas special or memorable. Sometimes all it takes is a “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.”