A Sad Sight

We stopped by the Galleria today, and saw their grand Christmas tree, in a less than grand state…being dismantled.


Now, if I saw this same thing in the reverse in November, when the tree was being assembled, I’d be happy as a clam. But today, on the eleventh day of Christmas, it was a depressing sight indeed!

Chickadee Thursday

I had to run a few errands at the mall today, so Chickadee was my shopping buddy again!


I may have put up the Christmas tree tonight, too. I really wonder what goes through a toddler’s mind when she sees such a thing in the house. She almost certainly doesn’t remember it being there last year, but she’s old enough to really wonder about this year. It must be a very confusing thing!


The Christmas Tree

It’s getting close to that wonderful time of year when we put up the Christmas tree. This year, I’m prepared…I already bought all new lights, so when I go to test last year’s lights and discover that they don’t work, I won’t have to stop what I’m doing and go to the store.

Thinking about putting up the tree has me thinking about the tree itself. We really need a new Christmas tree, for a variety of reasons. And we have needed one for the last few years. But every year, when it’s time to put up the tree, there just isn’t money to replace it, and every year after Christmas, when the trees are on clearance, I just can’t find one I like to put away for the next year.

I can tell you exactly how old our current tree it, because we bought it the day of Moose’s baptism, after discovering that our original artificial tree had taken some water damage in storage unit of our old apartment building. I was so excited to have a pre-lit tree, because it was going to make my life easier. Or so I thought…

I can also tell you exactly when the pre-lit feature on said tree stopped working (much sooner than I expected), because it happened when Ryan was doing his trial period with Automattic, and was so busy with that and his full-time job that the tree was solely my responsibility that year. I was the one who had the fun job of trying to get all of the pre-wired light strands off of it. It took about three hours, because of the way they were twisted and tangled around the branches. Scissors were involved, and probably some swearing, and when I went to bed that night, I was too tired to even put the new lights on…that had to wait. The act of taking off the old light strands also made the tree drop a lot of extra “needles;” much more than happens during the standard putting up and taking down of the tree, thus the shabbiness of our tree (at least the ornaments hide all of the bare spots!). To this day, I can guarantee that I will find at least one piece of cord from the original lights when I put up the tree…it’s happened every year since then.

Whenever I do buy a new tree (like the same basic model I admire at Walmart every year), I do know a few things. I’m never buying a pre-lit tree again.  I’d rather string the lights myself every year than think about trying to get the pre-installed lights off again. I also have to make sure that I get a tree short enough to fit in the house (sadly, no nine-foot trees for us), but wide enough around that it has enough surface area for all of our ornaments. I’m also going to get a tree with sturdier needles, so it (hopefully) doesn’t shed quite as much. All things considered, I guess eight (soon nine), Christmases is pretty good for an artificial tree, but this one has definitely seen better days!

Book Review: The Carpenter’s Gift

If you haven’t had the chance to read the new children’s Christmas book, The Carpenter’s Gift, by David Rubel, then you’re missing out!

It’s a story, part fact, part fiction, about the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. It begins during the Great Depression, with Henry and his father selling Christmas trees in New York City, adjacent to where construction workers are building Rockefeller Center. The construction workers are touched by the family’s story, and by their kindness in leaving a Christmas tree for the workers to enjoy, and so the construction crew repays their generosity by building them a new, warm house, to replace the drafty shack they had been living in.

Henry never forgets their kindness, and plants a pinecone near their new home as a remembrance. As he and the spruce tree grow up, his fortunes improve, and he gets married and has a family of his own. As an old man, living alone, he ends up back at the old family homestead, where he continues to lovingly care for his home. He is faced with a decision when he is approached to donate his grand spruce tree to Rockefeller Center, to be the big Christmas tree for the year. Should he let it go? His decision is made for him, however, when he learns what becomes of the tree at the end of the Christmas season–and that’s where the facts in the story come in. Habitat for Humanity planes the tree, and uses it to build affordable homes for people who might not otherwise be able to have a home of their own.

The fictional part of the story is well-written and touching, and the factual part is eye-opening. I had no idea that the Rockefeller Center tree was used for such purposes after Christmas was over! It’s a great story that gives children an idea of what living through the Great Depression might have been like, as well as encourages a spirit of giving at Christmastime–and all without mentioning Santa once! I think this story will be a family favorite for years to come.

Christmas School–Day Three

Froehliche Weihnachten!

Every year during Christmas school, I choose a few different countries, and we learn about some of their Christmas traditions. We also learn how to say “Merry Christmas” in that language, read a story from that country (if we can find one), and do a craft, (or make a recipe), related to that country. And every year, we have “Christmas in Germany” day. It’s one of my favorite Christmas traditions to delve into Germany for a day (or sometimes two!).

We started with a book that I have yet to make it through without choking up–Christmas in the Trenches. This is a fictionalized account of the 1914 Christmas Truce along the front lines of WWI. It’s a beautiful story, and knowing that it’s true makes it even more meaningful. The book came with a CD, so we also got to listen to “Silent Night” in both English and German.

As long as we were talking about wartime Christmases, we stepped back from Germany for a moment to learn about the story of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” I found the background for this carol in Christ in the Carols, which is a devotional book. I’ve never actually used it for that purpose, but I enjoy reading the history behind some of our beloved Christmas carols. Learing about how Longfellow came to write the words to “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” provided a good opportunity for us to talk about how sometimes things look very bleak (as was the case during Christmastime in the Civil War and WWI), but if you have faith, you can find hope in the midst of any situation.

We also talked about the legends surrounding the Christmas tree, including the one where Martin Luther is believed to be the inventor of the modern Tannenbaum. This led nicely into our craft–beaded Christmas tree ornaments. I found a kit at Michaels, and while it wasn’t on sale, it was reasonably priced, and the beads in the kit were so pretty, I had to pick it up. We had fun stringing the beads (even though there were some missing from the kit that we kind of needed), and they look very pretty reflecting the lights on the Christmas tree.

The Kingfisher Book of Classic Christmas Stories is a beautiful, hardcover treasury of stories, some legends from around the world, and others feel-good favorites. Today we read “The Elves and the Shoemaker”–a German Christmas legend. Turkey and Bunny have enjoyed every story we’ve read out of this book over the years, and I always look forward to picking it up–we’ll be reading from it several more times this year.

Our last activity in school today was watching a DVD about German Christmas markets. It’s kind of an odd choice–it’s from the TV show The Seasoned Traveler, which is geared toward senior citizens who enjoy traveling. Still, it gives a great overview of Christmas markets, both in Germany, and around Europe (and even my beloved Chicago Christkindlmarket!), and even though we’re not the show’s intended audience, it’s still enjoyable (and educational!) to watch.