Our Christmas tree was a glorious hodgepodge. There was no color scheme or specific style; we hauled the same decorations out of the attic each year and hung them to a chorus of “Remember this?”
Each of us had a favorite. Mine was a porcelain goose with little jointed legs that swung as it dangled from the branch. Then there were ornaments we had made in school, and ornaments that had been given to us as gifts. There were the brightly colored felt ornaments made by my mother in a rare fit of craftiness. There were the traditional glass globes, of which we seemed to break about one a year. It was a beautiful mess of memories, all jumbled together.
And scattered throughout the tree were birds — some tiny, like the little chickadee; others larger, like the bold cardinal. Made with real feathers, the birds had wire feet that wrapped around the branches. We loved to position them deep within the tree at odd angles so they peeked out at you, quizzically, just like a real bird might. Topping the tree was not an angel or a star, but another bird: a white dove. My mother told me that it symbolized peace, which gave me a nice warm feeling.
Christmas still gives me a warm feeling today, and I guess my own feeling about the holiday is a lot like those crazy, jumbled-up Christmas trees of my youth. It’s not neat and tidy; it’s not arranged according to any plan or system. It’s just something held together by memories and propped by tradition.
Today, you won’t find any Nativity scenes or angels among my Christmas decorations. (OK, you won’t find any decorations at all, but that’s borne more of laziness than any principle.) But I will continue to do the things I have done to celebrate Christmas all my life: give and receive gifts, and spend time with family and loved ones over a meal.