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The Binding of our Christmas Symbols

The world’s oldest Christmas Tree will adorn the family mantle in Bath, England once again this season after a short hiatus. Originally purchased for a six-pence in the Victorian era of 1886, the aged tree has been authenticated by Christie’s in London and the Guinness Book of Records as officially the oldest known artificial Christmas Tree. It also has been appraised at over $1,000 pounds, according to The Daily Mail.

While the tree stands a mere 14-inches tall and is made of green raffia, its significance as a symbol of Christmas can be felt around the world. New family owner, Paul Parker, admits, “It may not look like much but it has been part of our Christmas celebrations for so many years.”

This is the third generation to display the ornamental tree. Parker said it was originally purchased by his great-great aunt and then passed along to her favorite grandniece, Janet, who was Parker’s mother. Every year, the tree is taken out of its original box and displayed for the family festivities.

Family traditions.

I think I am more moved by family traditions, probably especially at Christmas and holidays, than by anything else. I become more nostalgic at this time of the year, much to my family’s amusement. It is the time I pour over each ornament as it is hung on the tree, the old family photos, the stories, the genealogies.

Every year, it seems, I walk into Pottery Barn and the like, and I dream of replacing all of my “old” with “new.” And what particularly draws my attention is the “new” that resembles the “old,” the retro. I always purchase a few new things, because I dearly love to shop at Christmas, but inevitably, by mid-December, I am so gratified by the “old” things I had hoped to replace that I can’t imagine a Christmas without them.

While “things” can never replace people, I will admit that some of my “things” have great significance to me. I like to think of them as historical artifacts that remind me and symbolize that which is meaningful and essential in my life … my family and our shared memories. And though the past, the history, is always compelling, I’m always also looking to the future in this way … to constantly make new memories that can be cherished throughout the year, and the years to come.

It’s binding.

While visiting Ballard today with my parents, we happened along a famous Swedish landmark, Larsen’s Bakery. I was amused at the several older couples peering into the glass cases. This was serious business; the choosing of these pastries. They were specific and they were adamant in those choices. Together, they navigated the waters of the new and familiar delicacies presented so enticingly. And it was there that I was once again reminded how important holidays can be to our older generations. Because they have lived enough years to know that family traditions are binding traditions. Not for the sake of those traditions, but for the sake of the people who make up the family.

What traditions, what artifacts will you display this year? What will you teach your children or the younger people who make up your family? What traditions will you begin? My wish is for you to cherish your historical artifacts this Christmas season, let the warmth of years past envelope you and comfort you in this most wonderful time of the year. And who knows? Your artifact may just increase in value many, many times over.

Merry Christmas!

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