I find Christmas to be a bittersweet celebration for me. I suppose part of that comes from not having a family of my own. The other part comes from the idiotic pace of work that portends “the Holiday Season”! This year I caught myself wishing we could go back to simpler times when Christmas was about a special meal around the table with family and friends and perhaps a new pair of knitted socks under the tree. The whole commercialization of Christmas and the insane hysteria that people whip themselves into just makes me sick. Nerves are frayed, bank accounts are emptied and everyone seems to be worrying about something — where is the “silent night”, “peace on earth” part of this celebration?
Last weekend my mother hosted her annual Open House. As always, she started fretting about not having enough sparkling, food, etc. Most of all, there is always worry about getting the tree up and decorated in time for the big party.
Every December, I go out with my cousin Miki, armed with my handy dandy little saw to cut down a tree. It’s a ritual that we both look forward to. We have experienced it all — rain, thigh high snow, sleet, glorious sunshine and this year a balmy day! We have trudged around for what seems like days trying to find that perfect tree. My perfect tree needs to be tall with a few pine cones on top if I am lucky and large gaps between the branches. It actually has to be a tad imperfect. Those perfectly pruned trees at Christmas tree lots are not for me. You see, I need space for my angels to fly!
When I was a little infant, my “prababi” in Prague wanted to send me a gift. Those were in the extreme days of communism so times were tough for those folks. My mother suggested that she send me a wooden angel — a golden haired cherub with a white little smock and green wings — an angel common to all “Kristkindlmarkts” throughout central Europe. The package arrived and contained within were three little cherubs. From that moment on, my love of angels began. Each year another package would arrive with yet more angels for my tree. By the time I was 12 my Christmas angels were now a full blown collection!
In my fourteenth year,(yes, I admit I was already bossy and a full-blown control freak!), I decided to overhaul the family Christmas tree decorations. I threw out the old strings of coloured bulbs and old ornaments and decked out the tree in small white lights and the first of my angels. It was a radical change which annoyed my father immensely. He hated change of this nature. But it was a glorious sight to behold and a new tradition was born.
Since then, my collection of angels has grown exponentially over the years. Some, as a result of gifts from friends and many from always being on the lookout. These are not the garish angels of recent years but rather whimsical, small creations fashioned of wood, stone, glass or any other clever thing.
My most despised part of decorating the tree is stringing the lights. I often mutter aloud that I would love a man in my world if only for this task (although all my coupled friends tell me it likely wouldn’t be any different — I would still be putting up the lights!). But as I begin to open the many large boxes with all my glorious angels, my mood changes, my blood pressure drops and a calm comes over me. You see every little angel has a story behind it; a reminder of a good friend who gave it to me; a child who made it or a trip where I stumbled upon it. I have lovely gilded angels from Paris which my mother found in a little shop near Notre Dame. There are the sweetest chubby angels swinging in stars and on crescent moons. There is the lovely scallop shell angel (just 2 inches in height) with hair made out of the tiniest barnacle shells. One of my favourites is an angel I bought in Carmel, CA. Her body is a pine cone, her wings are two oak leaves, her head a bead and her hair and halo the top of an acorn — so delicate and clever.
Each year, the newest angel is given a place of honour at the front of the tree and hung first. This past summer, my God-daughter was on a project in India and on her visit to Tibet she found an angel — made of yak hair! I have a black beaded angel from South Africa, angels inspired from the shells we collected on the beach in PEI, delicate angels made of shavings and goose feathers and down and on it goes…over 400 in all! Three hours later, when the boxes are empty, I sit in the darkened room with just the tree lights to illuminate the angelic pandemonium. What a sight to behold — each little cherub and angel twisting and twirling with wonderful abandon on the tree. I swear I can hear them giggle in glee! They are a childish reminder of a sacred Christmas tradition before the commercialization of this blessed feast. They are a reminder of friends and family past and present. They are a reminder that Christmas is about magic!
Merry Christmas everyone! I hear my angels beckoning me to sit in silence on this peaceful night!