The smell of pine needle pervades in the air as the christmas tree is undressed and laid bare. The baubles taken off and back in their box nestled back in tissue, the stars, reindeer, lights are all packed away. The box is packed away, the tree checked over one last time and pulled out in to the street.
There is something about this disrobing of the tree ceremony that makes me reflective and a little thoughtful. The christmas period is over for another year, family gatherings and the coming together of all those we love; another year marking itself with fireworks, year of collections on tv; best and worst of, the looking back over friendships made and failed, jobs worked, projects begun, and days worked, illness, new family members bursting in to the world. And yet the tree so significantly reflects all the old phases closing and new beginnings. I feel a little sad as I put my much loved tree on the street awaiting the recycling truck. Memories of its smell each evening, the lights twinkling, the festive cheer lighting up a corner of my world, parties held with him as the star in the corner, watching, observing every moment, looking on into the lives day to day, the little happenings of the lives that it has stepped in to to momentarily provide his purpose - hosting lights, housing hidden gifts, standing regal in his spot. A spot chosen for impact, statement in the room, to bring more warmth and fun, seasonal cheer and smiles in to that corner of the house while he stands there proudly gripping his mantle of colour, jewel like twinkling in the lights.
Now the tree sits on the street, having given up those trinkets and temporary robes, naked and unwanted in the street, moving on to his next place, with all the other trees, dismantled and cast away for recycling. His branches have dropped, but he didn’t drop all his needles, as promised he clutched them firm not yielding them to the floor. He served. He brought joy. He made his small and brief mark on lives, creating memories for people, who excitedly went to pick him out over the others; “Yes! he was definitely the best size, the best shape, the best smell, ooooh, and he wont drop his needles, even better!” Wrapped up and carried home, space was cleared in a corner of the room, by the windows so that his sparkle could reflect back, and was held standing tall, water feeding his stump. Then the lights and all the pretty things to make him shine, glitter and glow. The admiration, the excitement as people entering oohed and ahhhed at his impact, his sight, adoring him. Next came the gifts, bit by bit, boxes and wrappings of all shapes and sizes. Paper with patterns and dots, stars, glitter gold and silver, all jostling for space beneath his protective branches.
It seems to me that the tree is very much an analogy of life. We all know that things and people come and go in our lives - the reason, season, lifetime philosophy. The tree can be seen as the short term impactful and momentary symbol of something that comes in to our lives each year to remind us of certain key things. We come together around it with our families and friends, we celebrate a year, another phase, another series of experiences, activities, growth, failures, learnings, health goals and so forth. The cyclical nature of its return each year is to show us not only the marking of another year, and the coming togetherness that it represents, but that it represents a bright patch in what is an otherwise dark and grimmer, colder period of the year. The weather has closed in. The nights are long and the days are short. This festival of sharing, gathering, gifting and receiving is all to lift us in dank and otherwise long darker months of the year. It serves to give us all a focus, to set goals, to aim for something again. It gives us the opportunity to reflect on whats past and set out for new horizons. It may only be a christmas tree, that every year we bring in to our homes and dress, but it’s a pagan ritual that takes us full circle to remind us of certain things and help us mark the passage of time through our lives. The evocative smell of the pine needles’ freshness, the cosy feel and warmth it brings to our lives for those few weeks a year, and the further rituals that surround it of stockings, mince pies, the glass of port or whisky by the fireside and carrot on christmas eve, Santa, the gifts on christmas day to those special to us, the sharing of food and drink, reminding us all of the simpler things in life that are most important; to hold those dear to you close, to cherish and be grateful for those we love and are loved by, and those who have left us or are far away. It can be a lonely time for many, and as it sits out on my pavement now discarded, it also serves to remind me of those who have less and have fewer hopes and dreams, warmth or love around them.
The tree served its purpose - to bring light, happiness, laughter into a brief moment of life, to gather memories around it. We all remember putting our home made decorations on the tree as children, the mountains of presents, the excitement of seeing if santa had bought that one thing we had wished for. The annual nature of this ritual, the accumulation of practises, the memories and the tingling mulled wine sensation of the season it represents. These are all key markers for us. Its annual stamp in time serves us all. We, like it, grow, evolve from seedling to adult and then begin to wither. Our purpose is in all of us.
So, the candles, the lights, the adornments are all packed away for another year. The furniture is moved back in to place, all being restored to their rightful places again. A closure on one year and the mark of another to come. Who will dress his successor next year, where will it be? - the same house? new faces, new friends? family, new stories, moments and memories all gathering pace as another year marks its march forward in time.
Our purpose too can change. It can evolve in to something new. Phases start and finish, things come and go. We all have our seasons. We all have a purpose. We can all make our mark, and bring a little sparkle in to ours and others lives - we can all be a tree.