It’s been a rough year. From the global health issues of the pandemic to the economic and mental health effects of staying home to virtual school, 2020 has been hard (and that’s an understatement). As this year comes to a close and our highest hopes are set for 2021, we’re left needing a win.
On a positive spin, COVID-19 has paused many in-person holiday celebrations out of an abundance of caution and safety. We can choose to be upset or we can choose to pivot and refocus on our families and making memories. For so many of us, the holiday season is plagued by busyness. Let’s pause and focus on finding joy in the small moments.
Here’s an easy way to reclaim the joy this holiday season: I propose EVERY family has a real tree (even if you don’t celebrate Christmas!) this year. Here’s why-
I recently moved to Washington state. In the move, some evergreen branches (which are everywhere!) must have gotten stuck on some of our office boxes. For weeks, every time I went into the office – let’s be real, NONE of these boxes are unpacked yet – I was overwhelmed with the beautiful, crisp scent of winter. It was a nostalgic scent that reminded me of going to a tree lot with my dad and picking out the biggest tree we could carry. It reminded me of my care-free days as a child and the excitement and peace surrounding Christmas morning as a family. I found myself running to the office at every post-PCS stress to breathe-in that calming evergreen scent.
I’ve come to realize that I’ve allowed myself to get caught up in the stress and busyness of the holiday season as an adult. With a deployment, PCS, pandemic, and virtual school, this has been a hard year for me and especially for my kids. I want to make this holiday season extra special for them. I want them to look back on 2020 and remember the amazing memories we’ve had together and not the fear and stress. I have an inkling that you might feel the same.
I will be the first to admit that I’ve had an artificial tree every year of my adult life; they’re consistent and convenient. And yes, we’ve had so many memories around the same tree every year. But how many more memories can we make by picking out our tree or even cutting one down ourselves? I want my kids to have the same nostalgia for the fresh evergreen scent when they are an adult, and that starts with us getting a real tree this year.
In college, my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I had a good friend who grew up on a Christmas Tree farm. I didn’t even know that was a real thing until I met him! But just as pumpkins are grown and harvested for Halloween and lettuce is grown and harvested for your salad, so are trees specifically grown and harvested for the holidays. For every Christmas tree harvested, at least one more tree is planted in its place.
So when we buy a real tree this year we are not only supporting more trees being planted, we are supporting a hard-working family just like our own. In the case of our college friend, he is part of a multi-generational Christmas Tree farm, and just like many families nation-wide, they have a loved one who is an active duty military member who will not be home for the holidays this year. We can all relate to what that’s like.
So yes, I could put up my artificial tree again this year. But instead, I want to support another family’s livelihood – I want my family’s purchases to support small businesses and other families.
If you’re reading this and you’re saying, “But Amie, we don’t celebrate Christmas!” Fear not! There are so many beautiful ways you can enjoy a real tree in the celebrations of your own faith or in secular ways. Here are five ways you can include a real tree in your family’s holiday traditions:
- THANKFUL TREE – Have everyone write down one thing they’re thankful for every day, hang it on the tree, and read them all on New Year’s Day. Then take the boughs and use around the house to remember your thankfulness and memories all winter long.
WISHING TREE – Pick a night to write all your hopes and dreams for the New Year on notes to hang on the tree. At the end of the season, dry a few branches and store with all wishes. Next year, read all the wishes and decorate the tree again with those that have not yet come true and decorate with the boughs to symbolize the dreams realized.
MEMORY TREE – Use images and trinkets from your favorite family memories from the year to hang and display. At the end of the season slice up the branches and modge-podge your favorite images and memories to remember for years to come.
FAMILY TREE – Recycle all those holiday cards into ornaments and hang on the tree. You can do this with all those old photos too! At the end of the season dry and cut the trunk; you can use them for crafts! Hollow out to make birdhouses for other (feathered) families to enjoy. Use your creativity in whatever ways you would like.
- UPCYCLE TREE – After your family’s unique holiday celebrations, slice up the trunk and branches to make bird feeders, coasters, live-edge chalkboards, and more to make your holiday memories last all-year-round!
As 2020 draws to a close, I am on a mission to reclaim joy this holiday season.
This year has been hard, but it’s possible to end a bad year with good memories. There are a lot of things I want to do differently this holiday season, the first of which is to get a real tree. Will you join me? This year let’s move away from focusing on the things we have and move towards enjoying the memories we make.
Trees for Troops provides real trees to service members and their families at many bases worldwide. Ask your base if they participate!