Cats and Christmas trees can make for a challenging combination, but I love the holiday season, and one of my favorite parts has always been the annual decorating of the Christmas tree. Until the tree is up, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas to me, and even though it’s been a little more challening for the past couple of years with two young cats, I’ve made it work.
I’ve collected ornaments for the past thirty some years, and inevitably, bringing out the ornaments each year leads to a lovely, if sometimes bittersweet, trip down memory lane. I grew up in Germany, and traditionally, our Christmas tree was not decorated until Christmas Eve. As a small child, I was not allowed into the living room while the tree was being decked out in its holiday glory. I can still remember the eager and impatient anticipation of the moment when my parents would ring a small brass bell that hung on the tree, and I could finally enter the room. It was pure magic each time. The tree was decorated with multi-colored glass balls, sparkling tinsel, and real candles – something that we can’t even imagine in these safety conscious times we live in.
When I moved to the United States in my mid-twenties, I was introduced to the tradition of putting the Christmas tree up right after Thanksgiving. I loved this – now I could have the tree up for several weeks, not the mere two weeks I was used to from my childhood! I was also introduced to artificial Christmas trees. At first I balked at the idea – the intoxicating pine scent of my childhood trees was such an essential part of the holidays, it was odd to think about having to give that up. But, being able to have a tree up for five to six weeks won out over not having the real thing. Not having to deal with cleaning up needles for weeks after the tree was taken down was a nice side benefit. And since having a fake tree has become the environmentally conscious thing to do these days, rather than making apologies for my fake tree, I am now politically correct.
I’ve accumulated quite a collection of ornaments over the years. Not surprisingly, many of them are cat themed, and I can usually remember where I got them or who gave them to me. There are photo ornaments that contain the photos of my cats, past and present. There are ornaments from places I’ve traveled to, like the shell ornament from a beach trip, the fat glass cat from Macy’s in New York City, or the handmade wooden ornament my dad made for me the year before he passed away. There’s the white tiger ornament that reminds me of a trip to Las Vegas to see Siegfried and Roy’s amazing performance. There’s the angel tree topper that came from the world famous Christmas market in Nuremberg, Germany.
And of course, there’s the small brass bell from my childhood Christmases, and it still brings back the memory of that magic moment each and every holiday season.
What are some of your favorite holiday memories?