Why was there a tree in our house?

Fiona wonders about the wonders of Christmas.

Fiona plays with a string of lights as we take down our tree on 7 January 2011.
Fiona plays with a string of lights as we take down our tree on 7 January 2012.

This December, my parents introduced me to some very strange practices that our family apparently follows. One evening, I got into my stroller, and the three of us took our grocery cart to Ridgewood. It was a nice evening—cold, but there were these funny-shaped, multicolored lights hanging over the street, and there were lots of people out, so I enjoyed the trip. The strange part happened toward the end, when we stopped near a bunch of trees. You might think I’m talking about a park, but this was definitely not a park. The trees were just right there on the sidewalk. They picked one out, handed a lady some of those greenish papers, put the tree in our cart, and we went home.

Fiona eats a cookie as she prepares to open her presents on Christmas Eve.
Fiona eats a cookie as she prepares to open her presents on Christmas Eve.

As if that whole exchange wasn’t weird enough, when we got home, they brought the tree—the entire tree!—into our house, where they leaned it up against a wall for a little while. The next time I saw it, it was in some kind of holder, standing in our living room. It smelled good, but I still didn’t quite know what to make of it. A few nights later, I started to think it was kind of cool. Mama and Daddy got out a big box of stuff that we put on the tree. I watched them put these strings of lights on the branches, and they were so lovely. Then they got out some little toys, most of which I wasn’t allowed to touch, and hung them up on the tree. There were a few that I really liked. One of them was a beautiful blue glass fish. They put it way out of my reach, unfortunately. There was another one that looked like a little furry polar bear, which is one of my favorite animals.

For a few days, it seemed that every time I woke up from my afternoon nap, there was another box under our tree. Mama and Daddy said something about “presents,” but I wasn’t really sure what that was. They also found some really big socks and hung them up on the bookcase. Then, one night, we read a story about the Baby Jesus being born a long time ago, and looked at some pictures. That was all pretty familiar, since we had been talking about it for a few weeks. We also read a cool pop-up book about some guy coming down a chimney. Then we sang a song and I went to bed.

In the morning, when I got up, Mama and Daddy brought me into the living room and showed me that I could open up one of the boxes. There was a toy in it! A toy I had never seen before! It was great. There were some other boxes, too, and Mama and Daddy opened some of them, but I wasn’t paying much attention because I was playing with my new toy. Then we went to church, and we sang some more songs about Jesus being born.

The next day, I went into the living room and Mama and Daddy gave me another box to open up. There was another toy in it! I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I got right to work playing with that toy, then remembered the one I had found the day before. It was a busy day. Little did I know that all of those boxes under the tree had toys in them. By now, I’ve opened them all up, and it’s so nice to have all these options for playtime. Mama gave me some cards and crayons so I could say thank you to the people who sent the toys to me.

I wasn’t sure at first, but now I think I like this “Christmas” event. Next time I notice that there’s a tree in our house, I’ll get started finding things that I can put in boxes to give to other people.

This article appeared on pages 22–23 of Issue 5 | January 2012.

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