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Showing posts with label Christmas trees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas trees. Show all posts

Friday, November 4, 2016

Starting Christmas

Everyone has their own idea about when it is the right time to start Christmas.  I don't mean shopping early (I am an all year long Christmas shopper, and make every effort to avoid going into stores after the middle of November!)  or seeing decorations hung on city streets as early as Halloween.  I understand that many resist being encouraged to begin thinking Christmas thoughts before Thanksgiving.  But I believe Christmas is more than decorations or gift exchanges, and seasonal foods. We need Christmas, the deep peace of knowing that God is with us, all the time, and it does not seem strange to me that this bubbles up at times with a desire for little things that show that need. For years, I have treated myself to beginning listening to my beloved Christmas music on my birthday, which is coming up soon. So I was really not surprised a couple of months ago when our 2 year old granddaughter Nora, began asking for a Mismas Tree. Perhaps she had seen the decorations when they went into the garage closet when we moved this summer.  Perhaps she saw a picture of a tree. But suddenly she was insistent.  She begged for a Mismas Tree with a star.  Her mom obligingly got this little tree out of the closet, we plugged in the lights, and then Nora wanted a star.  I cut one from cardboard for her and offered to cover it with foil.  She passed on the foil and I lifted her as high as I could for her to put her star where she wanted it.

So there is the start of our Christmas, before September's song or Halloween.  Note the pumpkins nearby!  We will do the rest of our decorating soon, since baby Oliver is due to make his appearance around Thanksgiving!  "For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.” 
― Charles DickensA Christmas Carol

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas Past, a Story

                                      1970 -    Joe's paper sculpture angels, at our house on Willow Green in San Antonio, Texas.  This is the only picture I have of them, and they got folded and hidden in one of our moves!

Recently a group of friends gathered for a meal and story sharing. We each told a story of a Christmas remembered. How valuable it is to hear each others' stories! Most of the stories were fond memories of a childhood Christmas experience. So much of our family preparation for and pleasure in Christmas includes ways we have done it before - stockings, and where they are hung, manger scenes and where they are placed, tree decorations, taken out of the box one by one with memories of each, carols around the piano, lots of family around for help and hugs, and cookies baked from recipes so old they are spattered and yellow.

I recounted the tale of our first married Christmas, when Joe and I were far from family and were beginning our own Christmas traditions, starting from scratch for Christmas decorations. I told part of this story in a previous post.   Our First Christmas

In our conversation and shared storytime that recent evening, I also told of disappointment (we would have to go back to Texas the first of the year), of grief due to the death of my beloved grandfather and the fact we could not leave in time to drive back to the funeral, of uncertainty for what the future held, and some of the ways those beginning traditions and stories have played out in our lives. Since that first Oregon Christmas, except for the Christmases we celebrated while living in Indonesia, we have always had some of the decorations for our tree that hung on it the year before. Those years from 1987 to 1991, all of our Christmas decorations including family stockings were mistakenly sent to storage when our overseas shipment was packed in California! That was one of the first boxes I looked for when we got the storage shipment back in 1992!

Even though the beginning Parker family Christmas may have seemed like starting from scratch, it was not entirely. We each brought to our marriage a faith that had been nurtured in our families of origin that was the reason for celebrating Christmas anywhere, at all. The trimmings for the tree, our handmade gifts, the clever folded angels Joe cut from paper for me - all of those were not just traditions carried on from the past, they signified the reason for those traditions:  the coming of God to be with us in the form of a human baby, to show us how to live and love. Fifty one years and many many Christmas candles and carols, evergreen trees and manger scenes, stockings and presents, boy grins and grandgirl giggles later, the traditions are precious, and the Christmas Story remains the same.

Friday, January 11, 2013

In recent years, I have seldom put away our Christmas decorations before Epiphany, which has now come and gone.  I even leave a couple of little trees up and add red tissue paper hearts so they become Valentine trees.  This year, I was late getting to the rest of "all things Christmasy".  As I stripped the big tree in our family room, I held each dear old ornament for a second and savored the stories they tell. My camera helped.  We don't limit the tree adorning to things we have bought for that purpose; these items hanging near each other here are a good example.  The glass ball in the center hung on our family tree when I was growing up, so it has graced decades of trees.  Many of those trees stood at the window of the small living room at 1128 Sunset Ave. in Jacksonville, Texas where my parents moved in 1944, and was still in use for many years after I grew up and left home to start my own family.  Daddy died in 1982, shortly after their 50th wedding anniversary.  Mother eventually stopped putting up a big tree and passed some of the tree decorations on to me, so they have traveled far and outlasted any number of trees! This ball and its peers hold dear memories of my childhood and my parents, but it also speaks endurance to me!

On the left is a small torn piece of paper with a tiny handmade Christmas tree.  It arrived one year as a card from dear friends.  I love it perched on a branch as it reminds me of friendship and how much it means to make something for a friend.

On the right, the small cross-stitched banner is my own handwork.  I love the little carolers.  I love more their song.  So, as I go back and forth to the garage with my boxes packed with Christmas heirlooms, they leave behind their message.  Joy to the World, the Lord has come!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Trees and Trims

Our Christmas house has more than one tree to trim.  We have artificial trees these days, but the decorations that dress them have been on many trees in many different places.  After the spare snowflake and string ball trimmed tree of our 1964 Christmas, Joe and I added an ornament or two or three every year.  So that our sons would have their own Christmas ornaments when they left to begin their own traditions and families, we let them choose an ornament for their own each year which was stored in a box.  I love visiting their homes and seeing a few of those childhood choices on their trees this time of year.  This tree is in my kitchen.  It celebrates family and the cooking we enjoy together, and is trimmed with cookie cutters I used when I was a little girl, cookie recipes handwritten  by grandmothers and friends, and little gingerbread boys and girls. The gingerbread family is over 35 years old, so of course is not real gingerbread.  When my sons were all in the same elementary school, one year we made baker's clay ornaments colored with instant coffee for all their teachers plus some for our own tree.  They come back out to dance on our tree and remind us of many happy Christmas times together in our kitchen.

My granddaughters are a delight all year 'round, but Christmas brings more fun than ever.  We enjoy making this tea tray with a tiny tree, teacups and teapots. We add a mix of pretty tea bags and Joe's mother's small spoon collection plus the book A Cup of Christmas Tea.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Cutting paper snowflakes can make young children into magicians and grandmas into little girls again.  There is mystery involved in the folding, choosing just the right place to cut, and carefully trimming little triangles and curves and slashes.  But there is wonder in the unfolding!  Much like the real ones, no two snowflakes turn out exactly the same.  I have never lost that sense of expectation and trying to imagine how this one is going to turn out.

Forty-nine years ago Joe and I celebrated our first Christmas as a married couple.  That December found us far from our Texas family and friends, in Corvallis, Oregon.  The original plan for Joe to enter graduate school there had been delayed.  In the meantime, he did any odd job available, including painting houses.  I worked as a nurse in a busy pediatric practice within walking distance of our apartment.  One of our doctors had a farm outside of town where we were invited to come cut a Christmas tree. We tramped around the hillside brushing away blackberry vines to find a perfect small Grant pine.  Its symmetrical, graceful branches had wide spaces that were perfect for decorating.  But we were beginning our home and our traditions.  We had no old familiar ornaments to unbox and remember.  We also had no extra money in the budget for buying same.  So we hung a few candy canes, made some string balls from twine and starch and balloons, and carefully cut lacy snowflakes.  That year I knitted my new husband a green sweater with sleeves twice as long as his arms.  He painted a tiny recipe box for me and pasted "Good Things You Can Fix" on top.

The photograph is the few snowflakes that remain after all these years.  I framed them last year for a gift for Joe.  This year we will remember our 1964 snowflakes when we make paper snowflakes with our grandchildren.  If you have never cut a snowflake, try this project.  You will agree with Charles Dickens - "It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself."

For some wonderfully fancy paper snowflakes, visit

Saturday, December 24, 2011

December 24

December 24

December 24, 1959

Daddy bought roman candles

to celebrate Christmas Eve.

My little sister and I knelt on the ground watching.

Each pop and whoosh threw red and green trails

into starlit sky.

We thought it was how he liked to spend Christmas eve.

Mother never joined us, staying inside,

then coming to the screen door

“Come fast, guess who has just been here?”

Santa came and we always missed him

but gathered our presents and drank hot chocolate -

No visions of sugar plums when we dreamed because we already had them.

December 24, 1963

I gave Joe a tiny red book

with poems about love.

He fastened three pins on my jacket

three letters: M, A, and P

my new initials.

We were married three days later.

December 24, 1964

In Oregon, our tree was a tiny Grant pine

cut from a friend's farm.

hung with snowflake cutouts and lacy string balls

I knitted a green sweater,

sleeves twice as long as his arms.

He painted a recipe box

“Good Things You Can Fix”

December 24, 1965

Planning a time full of surprises.

driving four hours on Christmas eve.

Our gift would be an announcement,

a grandchild!

Good news faded, pain exploded,

no tree in the operating room, no joy in the telling.

December 24 1968 and 1970 and 1973...

Lights shining in the eyes of a new baby.

Is there anything more beautiful?

What better time to celebrate birth and babies?

Christmas carols make wonderful lullabies.

December 24, now.

We go to church on Christmas eve

Once it was snowing when we came back outside,

something that never happens in South Texas.

We danced in the snowflakes.

Then we came in for mulled cider and tamales.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It looks like Christmas!

Skye and her doll Molly have matching Christmas dresses. Our house has its Christmas dress on too. The outward preparations for Christmas start Thanksgiving weekend although I always give myself the gift of beginning to listen to my favorite Christmas music on my birthday two weeks prior to that. Once I get the bins of decorations into the house from my garage, I am always eager to get everything "out and up". I find it takes me longer these days, so here it is only a few days until the 25th and I am still tweaking the tree...trees, actually. Skye is here in the afternoons after school and she has helped with getting ready. We have a small kitchen tree with handwritten recipes from my mother and cookie cutters I have used since I was a child. The tiny tree in the dining room has small china teacups and saucers for decorations plus a few tea bags and the pieces of Joe's mother's spoon collection that came to us. The decorating is only a sign of what goes on inwardly for me. Advent is a time for making my heart ready.