By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — One of the traditions of Christmas during my growing-up years was decorating the Christmas tree, which was usually placed by a window so passersby could see the lights reflecting inside.
Occasionally some extravagant soul would decorate a cedar or other tree outside, displaying the colorful lights throughout the neighborhood.
Now we have wire models of a tree with pre-lit lights that can be set anywhere to display one or more trees or even used as pathway lights.
It’s amazing the ways that Christmas decor has changed over the years.
Christmas trees, once covered with colored lights, tinsel and hanging ornaments, have now fallen into a theme, with the decor meeting that specific subject. White lights are almost mandatory on these trees in order to highlight the ornaments. And rather than having one Christmas tree, it is now customary to have several throughout the house. Some people have a Christmas tree in every room, ranging from a large tree to ceramic or porcelain tabletop trees.
The newest trend in tree decorating is to insert greenery or other floral decor into the tree for an extra “pop” on the decorations. No more are the tinsel and foil icicles of days gone by. Instead, large ornaments of a specific color or style or collectibles have taken over the decoration scheme, accented with clip-on poinsettias or other glittered branches. Those trees that do boast tinsel have a new twisted and glittery design, much fancier than the tinsel of old.
One of the most fascinating Christmas decor changes, however, is the upside down tree. Although definitely different, I could see the logic in having the pointed end of the tree on the floor. For me, that would allow for better stacking of gifts. These upside trees could also boast their own themes, often with the larger ornaments hanging from the top for more visibility and less trouble than fighting through the limbs to hang an ornament. One of the most frustrating parts of decorating a Christmas tree is placing the ornaments so they are not absorbed by the tree itself.
But when my son showed me pictures of the latest phase of Christmas tree decor — portal trees — I was really confused. These trees were a complexity for my simple mind. The portal tree features two trees — one, or part of one, mounted upside down from the ceiling with lights placed circling around the base of the tree on the ceiling. The other part of the tree is positioned directly beneath the hanging tree, also upside down and circled by lights on the floor, giving the impression that one tree has separated or is going through a portal from one floor to another.
It was at this point that I began questioning my own sense of Christmas decorations. Perhaps being in my 50s — and therefore qualifying me as “old” — has affected my sense of holiday decor. My husband still wants the tinsel and large multi-colored lights that we remember from our childhood. Several years ago, I bought ceramic ornaments that I hand painted with every family member’s name on their own specific ornament. Toss in the cartoon ornaments (Scooby Doo, Pooh, Tigger), some game ornaments (Life, Clue, Monopoly), and a few oddities that depict some of the careers of family members (bull dozer, air plane), and there is my Christmas tree, accented with a sometimes working train and tracks around the bottom. A themed tree would all but eliminate the family touch of our tree.
But teenage granddaughter, Hannah, follows modern tradition, changing the Christmas tree in her room each year. One year was a light purple tree, adorned with pink and purple ornaments and tinsel, setting off her then-Hannah Montana craze. The next year was a white tree, decorated in red. This year’s hopeful will be a white tree with black and white and/or zebra striped decorations to match her bedroom scheme.
The themes and designs may vary over the decades, but one thing will remain constant — that look of wonder and sheer innocent joy of a young child when the lights are plugged in and the spirit of Christmas shines through.
I hope that never changes.