Growing up Jewish I never had one, but always loved the look of Christmas trees. We had a Chanukah Bush, and I made paper decorations for it (it was a fake bush/tree thing in the formal living room of the house), and we did gifts and a Chanukah meal. But it wasn’t a major holiday (it still isn’t), and it was more a reason for my siblings home from college to be at home for a dinner.
Then I married a Goy (slang Yiddish for non-Jewish man). We agreed to raise our children Jewish, but to keep some of his family traditions, because they were not rooted in religion for his family. Finally, I get to have a Christmas tree! Our very first Christmas together we shared a house and a tree with another couple. I made Husband (then boyfriend) Looney Tunes ornaments, because I wanted something special for us on the shared tree. We still put those ornaments on our tree each year.
Then we didn’t have a big tree again until Oldest One was a year old. My Mother-in-Law was very generous, and gave us the ornaments Husband’s family used when he was growing up because they didn’t put a tree up anymore. We have ornaments made by his Grandmother, made by Husband in school, and ones commemorating the year, such as one from 1979. I love pulling those out each year and watching the girls carefully hang them on the tree. I like the tradition we are continuing, and handing down to the girls.
When I was pregnant with Little One I went to Hallmark with Oldest One and we picked out our first family ornament. It was a gumball machine with the year on it, and Oldest One loved it. Every year since then we have had a family ornament with the year on it. At first they were simple, and I bought them in town. Then I started to get family ornaments online I could put our names and the year on. We have bears on boats, monkeys, cows…a whole zoo of ornaments decorate our tree. When they are unwrapped each year we still ohh and ahh over them, and remember the one I dropped and broke taking it out of the box (Husband glued it), the one where the names wore off by the next year…each one is a memory.
I also get the girls ornaments for cheerleading. They get an ornament each year (this is year seven) for each team they are on. The first years were fairly easy, but it is definitely getting harder to find cheerleader ornaments they don’t own that can be personalized. And they have each been on two teams for the past two years, Oldest One for three years. Husband always does the obligatory eye roll when I order the cheerleading ornaments, but he always wants to see what I’m ordering. Oldest One told me last year she always looks forward to seeing what I’ve found. Little One just loves getting new ornaments.
We also have Chanukah ornaments on our tree. They make specific ornaments for Chanukah to hang on Christmas trees now, but we were putting ones on well before that happened. We would find Chanukah items, and in looking for where to put them on display we realized if we put an ornament hook on them they would be perfect for the tree. So we did. And they look great hanging next to the Looney Tunes, cheerleading, and family ornaments.
The tree also has ornaments the girls made over the years. It’s hard to believe how tiny their hands and feet were. I love those ornaments so much. It brings back the days of lopsided tree trimming because tiny hands couldn’t reach very high without help. It reminds me of the bright eyes putting out milk, cookies and beer (because milk can only fortify Santa so much) for Santa in their new Christmas pajamas. It also reminds me of lighting the Menorah, and the girls wearing headbands with big dreidels sprouting from the top, and seeing who could spin the dreidel the longest.
I love our Christmas tree. It symbolizes the traditions Husband and I have created with the girls, and who our family is. It isn’t traditional, since it has Chanukah on it. It isn’t color coordinated, and we don’t change the balls and tinsel each year to keep up with current trends. It is hung with memories, and laughter, some fighting, and tons of love. It is our tree, and I love it.