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Thoughts on a decorated tree

Published December 18. 2010 09:00AM

It's surely not the biggest. And it might not be the prettiest. It's not the most historically accurate holiday tree, either.

It doesn't even have traditional Christmas colors. But it's bright, very bright.

To me, it seems brighter than ever because it's my first holiday tree in a decade.

My Christmas tree tradition came to a halt ten years ago. It happened when death came to visit during Christmas season 2000. Ever since, I've come to understand how Christmas can be a dark time for many who've lost the bright candles in their lives. I can relate.

In fact, I swore I'd never put up another tree. Seven years later, that feeling intensified even more when Mom passed away on December 22, 2007.

Truth is, Christmastime can be a dark season for many folks. It can be more about mortality and emotional survival than about faith and celebration.

But even darkness has limits.

I'm not sure why, but this year I decided to put up a tree, a pure white Christmas tree. I didn't want a real tree. I didn't want dark green branches, or anything dark at all. I wanted a tree as white as snow. I wanted everything about it to shine, to glimmer and to sparkle.

Instead of the usual holiday colors of red and green, I wanted copper and gold with streams of golden beads and dozens of bright white lights. The tree would have one singular purpose: to shed light. And that's what it does.

There are no children in the house to enjoy it. No spouse, no parents, no soulmate. Not even a pet. But that's OK. It shines for me.

In some ways, that purpose honors a simple tradition of the Germans and Pa. Dutch.

Historians believe Christmas trees began in Germany in the 16th century. The artificial ones began in Germany, too, with the idea of feather trees. The custom caught on and spread everywhere.

Today, Christmas trees have become a hot-button issue.

Some oppose the idea of public Christmas tree displays due to separation of church and state. This has prompted officials to rename it a "holiday tree."

In 2005, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport removed all of its Christmas trees in the middle of the night rather than allow a rabbi to put up a menorah. Officials feared that one display would open the door for other religious displays. I wonder what Jesus would say about that? Or Buddha? Or Mohammed?

Thankfully, my harmless tree is less controversial.

My tree's purpose is to be bright. It's not meant to represent a dramatic new position on anything divine. It's not a monument for or against any particular religion, sect or cult. It doesn't glorify heavenly things I can't understand, nor does it make a political statement.

My tree simply provides extra brightness, and maybe a feeling of hope. It glows during a bleak, shadowy time when daylight ends at 5 p.m., and thoughts dwell on those who've gone.

The holidays are never truly warm after your brightest candles are extinguished.

But in a small way, a Christmas tree reflects hope.

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