This is an Advent tree, not yet a Christmas tree. Last Sunday we wove two types of lighted strands through its branches: warm incandescents, whose light reminds us of stars in the sky, and cool LEDs, whose light appears Advent blue and whose bulbs make us think of icicles.
For a week now the tree has cast a soft glow over the living room, the space in our house where we work and play. When I was a child, I would spend hours beneath our tree, staring up through the branches and imagining I was looking at the stars through the canopy of an evergreen wood. The enchantment of tiny lights has never entirely worn off; I suppose it’s one of the reasons I also love fireflies in summer.
Tomorrow we will add another layer of meaning to the tree in the form of ornaments or garland, depending on what box comes out of storage. When the children were small, we made paper chains for garland every year. They drew pictures or wrote on the strips of paper, and I tore off countless small pieces of tape for them to secure the ends of the links. It’s a kind of miracle, you know: simple circlets of paper interlock to form a chain of any length. Sometimes we each made our own chain before joining them together to create a single chain long enough to encompass the whole tree. You wouldn’t have seen it in Better Homes and Gardens, but our garland always seemed more beautiful to me than the most elegant tinsel.