We're getting our tree tonight and as just like every year, I feel conflicted. E is Jewish, we're raising the boys Jewish, and I call myself a nonJew who is practicing Judaism. But I haven't converted and the biggest reason holding me back might be the tree (and my love of stockings - making and filling them).
When E and I were first married, we didn't have tree. It wasn't that he said we couldn't have one, it was just an understood agreement that we would not have a tree in our house. During these years, I would get my Christmas tree fix when we went home to Kansas City and enjoyed the tree and the lights at my parents and grandmother's houses. As years passed, we made didn't make it back home each year, and I felt the loss of the tree and the twinkling lights during the darkest days of the year. (especially when we lived in DC in an old Victorian townhouse with a circular turret that seemed to have built specifically for hosting a Christmas tree.)
E and I separated and divorced for a few years when our oldest son was young and during those years, I got a tree in December and I immediately understood what not having one had meant. The tree was a physical artifact that directly connected me to my past - my Christian past. It reminded me of all the Christmas eves I spent at my grandparents' house with family where we ate dinner in the garage because it was the biggest room in the house and where my grandma's tiny tree would be consumed with presents under it. It reminded me of the Christmas pageants at my church and the sacred moments of hearing O'Holy Night while reenacting the nativity. But most of all it reminded me of my favorite holiday activity that would regularly occur in the days leading up to Christmas - sitting in the dark with just the Christmas tree lights on and listening to carols. I'm pretty sure our brains need these annual physical reminders to re-affirm and solidify our memories. Without the smell of pine trees in December, I fear those memories will lose their standing in my brain that is constantly reprioritizing and shifting what details of the past I remember.
Even feeling conflicted, I will go get our Christmas tree today. The boys and I will string the lights and decorate it while listening to SirusXM's Holly channel. When we're done, we'll turn off the house lights and take some time to enjoy the light and scents we've brought into our house on the darkest day of the year. I will reconnect with my Christmas past and maybe create a tenuously connection to it for my Jewish boys.
Bonus poem: Ode to Winter - "On the darkest day bring in the tree, cool and pungent as forest. Turn up the music. Pour us a glass. Dress the house in pagan finery. "