Christmas has always been a favorite time of year for me. When I was young, it meant that my older brothers and sister would visit and our home would be all filled up, just the way I liked it. My mom and dad would make a pot of everyone’s favorite soup, Avgolemano (chicken, lemon, and rice), and we’d sit around the table talking and slurping up bowl after bowl.
In the evenings, we’d play games, listen to my dad read stories, and sing carols (sometimes, I’d even pound them out on the piano). All of this festivity made more special because it took place by the Christmas tree.
I loved our tree. We’d decorate it with a million, tiny colorful lights and heaps of ornaments–almost any would suffice. Many of our favorites were homemade, others were outdated, but their history and the stories they kept, earned them their spot, year after year.
Some of my favorite memories are as simple and wonderful as sitting near the tree in the late evening hours and looking at the lights. Often, I would fall asleep there, amid the quiet voices of the people I loved.
This year would bring the first Christmas we wouldn’t spend at the home where I grew up. Even with my own family now, I found myself having sad feelings about this–Christmas wouldn’t be the same.
I tried my best to make up for the loss that I felt by creating Christmas with Josh and Gus in our apartment. Josh grew up celebrating Hanukkah, and Gus is two, so it would look and feel different.
On one of the only days it snowed this winter, we ventured out to find our Christmas tree. It was nearly perfect, the snow falling, Josh and Gus playing hide-and-seek within the rows of trees, me on the lookout for just the right one.
Our little tree stood bare in the corner of our living room for days. Somewhere in between our usual routines, my excitement had waned.
One evening, Gus and I were on the floor near the tree playing with cars when I finally felt an urge to go and retrieve the string of lights, and the small bag of ornaments, I had stashed away under the bed.
Gus helped me wrap the oversized lights around the tree, and we quickly hung the handful of ornaments. Weighed down by the lights and with so few decorations, the tree looked unremarkable. Gus felt differently than me and admired the little tree.
“The best part is when you turn off all the lights and look at it,” I told him.
I felt excited by the idea and jumped up to switch the overhead lights off. To my surprise the little tree looked pretty. I looked at Gus, a big smile appeared on his face.
“I think it’s the Christmas tree’s birthday!” he shouted with excitement. “Can we sing it Happy Birthday?”
By then, I had a big smile, too. That was the first night we sang happy birthday to our little tree, there would be many more. Gus had started a new tradition.