The Deeper Meaning of a Christmas Tree

Growing up my family and I would go to a local church in New Britain where we would purchase our Christmas Tree. I can remember coming home and patiently having to wait a day to decorate it as it thawed in the basement. The hours waiting seemed like days in the eyes of a 5 year old.  I loved this tradition that we celebrated and the excitement it brought my parents.

Unfortunately, when I was 7 that celebration changed.  My grandmother passed away in late August of 1992 and I can remember how devastated my mother was at the loss of her mother. My birthday that year was very quiet and only close family attended. I began to see a dramatic change in my mother’s eyes during the first Christmas without my grandmother. She was somber, quiet and had no ambition of celebrating the holidays. It was the first year of many that we no longer purchased a real Christmas tree.

This “branch tree” is similar to the one that my mom would put together when I was a child.

As a 7 year old girl, I had no idea why she was upset and detached. All I could think about is why someone would not want to celebrate Christmas. I was confused as much as my father was, but decided that it would be a lost cause that year and thus I stopped asking why. That Christmas and those years after were frustrating for me, because I so badly wanted a Christmas tree. Finally one year she compromised and filled a very large  vase with branches and added lights and ornaments. While I was happy she was making progress, I was still confused as to what the difference was in this “make-shift” Christmas tree versus a real Christmas tree? She wouldn’t answer this question for many years and then finally one year admitted to me that after my grandmother passed away she had no ambition or desire to decorate or become excited about Christmas. After explaining to her that I am a kid, one that looks forward to decorating for Christmas, she still didn’t budge.

Now, over twenty years later she still does not put up a Christmas tree in the house. Instead, she purchases a small tree that resembles a Christmas tree and decorates that with a few ornaments. I shake my head year after year, but realize that to her, Christmas has changed since my grandmothers passing. While I wished she would decorate a real Christmas tree, I do understand that there is a deeper meaning to having an actual Christmas tree for her.  I don’t know if its guilt, fear, sadness or a combination of all, but whatever symbol a Christmas tree brings to her, I’ve come to the realization that I need to respect it. While I disagree with it and wished she would think differently, the reality is, people do things to protect their feelings and emotions.

Do you or anyone in your family chose to not celebrate certain holidays, because of the loss of a loved one? If so, please let us know why it’s hard for you and your reasoning behind it.


10 thoughts on “The Deeper Meaning of a Christmas Tree

  1. Melissa, I just want to go back in time and surround your 7 year old self with Christmas trees. Brings a tear to my eye. ♥

  2. I have a similar experience with Christmas as well. My mother was always under a dark cloud at Christmas because of my father’s death. She did, and still does, have mental health issues that impact her and her parenting as a result. Unfortunately treatment doesn’t heal the wounds of grief. Thankfully as an adult I have created my own family traditions around the holiday and am finally learning that Christmas is a time to celebrate, not a time to mourn.

  3. OK, I have somewhat of an open wound about this sort of thing, so please forgive me if I say things about your mother that may sound unkind. I know that everyone is allowed to grieve, and everyone has their own timetable. You don’t just “get over” the loss of a parent.

    HOWEVER, if you ARE a parent, you have an obligation, in my opinion, to rise above your grief at some point and parent your own children appropriately. If you are clinically depressed, which your mom may have been, you MUST get treatment to help you function. I am not saying your mom should have dressed up like Mrs. Claus and danced around the house. What I am saying is that she should have put you first, instead of herself.

    So, Melissa, if you are kind enough to understand and respect your mother’s feelings about Christmas, I hope you are also kind to yourself and forgive yourself for any resentment or sadness you may feel around this issue. You have a right to be sad and a right to be angry about what YOU had taken from you. You can still respect and get along with your mother, but try to make sure it’s not at the expense of your own self-esteem.

    I hope you have a spectacular Christmas in a forest of magnificently decorated trees.

    1. Thanks Randi for your comment. I agree, I wish she had a tree up every year and put her issues aside…. I dont think she was clinically depressed, as she celebrated and decorated for every holiday, except couldn’t put up a christmas tree.

  4. Oh Melis what a heart wrenching story. I think holidays are really hard for people after a loved one passes away. It sounds like your mom and her mom must have been incredibly close.

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