Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Why a Tree for Christmas?

Christmas tree

Do you ever stop and think about our Christmas traditions? Why we do what we do? I know I’m weird (at least that’s what my sisters told me growing up) but I do.

Here’s the one that’s had me by the throat since a week ago Sunday. I was chatting with my cousin’s mother when she commented on how beautiful our tree at FC3 is. (It’s always gorgeous, but she hasn’t attended church there for that long.)

So here it is . . . Does anybody know why we have the tradition of a Christmas tree? If you stop and think about it, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Like I’ve said before, I get the stars and the gifts and the decorations, but why a tree?

It would make more sense to decorate a manger, wouldn’t it? Or build a stable and decorate that?

I looked on Wikipedia, and they told me the tradition started in the 1500s, but they didn’t say why. The way I read it there, it was as if someone else did it so I want to, too. I can’t imagine that’s how it happened.

I remember several stories my mom told me when I was a child. Why Nicholas was made a saint, thereby becoming Santa Claus. Why animals talk at midnight on Christmas Eve. (Because they were there to see the Christ Child born, so they tell the story every Christmas Eve.) But I can’t remember if she ever told me why a Christmas Tree.

I honestly don’t know. I can guess, though.

Maybe it goes along with why red and green are the primary Christmas colors.

Here’s my theory:

Christmas is celebrating the birth of Christ. And we know He was born to die for our sins. So when we celebrate His birth, in a sense, we’re celebrating His death, too.

So I’m thinking the red to remind us of the blood He shed.

The Christmas tree is to remind us of the cross, the tree He was nailed to. But rather than a tree that loses its leaves, the tree is an evergreen, because He rose after three days in the grave and, in Him, we also have everlasting life.

So there it is–my explanation for why we celebrate with red, green and an evergreen tree. Right or wrong? Who knows? (If you do, please tell me!)

One thing I know absolutely–Because of Him, we can be “ever green.”

Now, I think I need more red on my tree. 🙂


In answering Steve Bock’s comment where he quotes Jeremiah 10:2-4 (below) I went to The Bible Answer Man’s website and found this origin for the Christmas Tree. (You can read the entire thing in comments.)

The fact of the matter is that the Christmas tree originated in Christian Germany about two thousand years after Jeremiah’s criticisms of wooden idols. It originated from two Christian symbols found in homes at Christmas time. The first was a “Paradise tree,” an evergreen which was hung with apples which represented the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. The second symbol was a “Christmas pyramid.” This of course was a triangular shelf holding Christmas figurines and decorated with a star. By about the 16th century these two symbols had been combined into the Christian Christmas tree.

Thanks Hank!


The Reason

I finally got one of our Christmas trees decorated. It’s the tree I put the kitchen sink on.

You know what I mean. This is the one with ornaments friends have given me, kids made me, ones that weren’t really ornaments but I hang them on the tree anyway.

Oh, wait. I have those on both my trees. 😉

Anyway, when I’m decorating this tree (it takes over one end of the family room) I do a lot of praying. I pray for my kids and their spouses as I hang the ornaments that have pictures of them as kids and the ones they made me when they were little.

I have a bell that one of my friends gave everyone at her wedding several years ago that hangs there, so I pray for her, her husband and her two kids.

Gorgeous ornaments I’ve scored playing Dirty Santa at the RWI party each year give me several spunky ladies to pray for. (And sometimes I pray for the ones I stole them from. 🙂 )

I have one from a very special secret sister who passed away the week before my youngest son was born, so I pray for her family when I put it on the tree.

I pray for G-Man when I hang something from a package he gave me, and I pray for my walking buddy when I hang Santa’s underwear. (She swiped them from him.)

I have a sparkly N’awlins mask my friend Marilyn made me one year, so she gets prayed over.

And I have a gorgeous hand made ornament my friend who went through hip replacement before I did. She was so encouraging to me, she gets a pile of “bless hers”.

I have a beautiful dove Sweet Shirley made everyone in the office. Blessings on her, too.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t stop, get on my knees and spend hours praying for each of these people. I just ask the Lord to bless them as I work. And I think about the joy they’ve given me over the years. (And years and, in come cases, YEARS!)

And since no one volunteers to help me put the ornaments on the tree (or take them off) I have lots of quiet time to pray.

He’s the one I should be talking to when I decorate my tree, anyway, right?

After all, He’s the Reason for the Season.


First Christmases

A Christmas tree in the United States.

I’m not talking about the FIRST first Christmas. I’m talking about my first Christmases.

When I was a kid, Santa came on Christmas morning, and didn’t wrap the presents. So when we got out of bed, our presents were out there!

In G-Man’s family, on the other hand, Santa came on Christmas Eve, and wrapped his presents.

This was when we lived in Bartlesville in a tiny little house. It’s a real Christmas tree–CEDAR.

 Here’s G-Man, wearing his gift from me. (He had a 750 Gold Wing and I wanted him to stay warm while he rode it.) He bought me that rocking chair behind him. It’s still in my living room. 🙂 I don’t know where his insulated coveralls are. LOL.

When we had kids, we had to compromise. Santa came on Christmas morning, but he wrapped his gifts.

More work for Mom. 😦

Our first Christmas with children was when we lived out at Silver Creek Ranch. I ran the dress shop (Four Seasons) and G-Man did what he does when he’s not in a pharmacy. Our tree was a REAL Christmas tree, which means it was a CEDAR. It was small enough to put on top of a card table in the kitchen, so #1 couldn’t reach it. And I bought all unbreakable ornaments in case he did reach it, nothing would break.

Somewhere I have a picture of him trying to reach the tree. 🙂 Of course.

This is Matt’s first Christmas, and Danny’s 4th. I’m not sure if Danny didn’t like to get his hair cut or if I didn’t like wrestling him into the barber chair, but he looks like a little hippie boy here.

A couple of years later, we had another first Christmas.

As you can see, Baby Bradley is disgusted, Middle boy Matt is kind of uncertain, but Big Boy Danny is a happy camper with his mouth full of candy. My kids always knew when they were around the “real” Santa because he knew them by name.

Amazing what a true saint can do! And this Santa was a true saint.

After all the boy’s first Christmases, we had the other kind of first Christmas. First Christmases with wives.

And they’ve come in order. Danny and his wife, China, first.

This year, we’ll have Matt and his wife, Nikki.

Next year, it’ll be Bradley and his wife, Nicole.

At least I have everyone’s stockings ready to fill.


Christmas’s Last Leg

A postcard from 1919, with artwork of Santa Cl...

Image via Wikipedia

Last night was the final leg of Christmas–our celebration with Dad and sibs. Oh, and spouses, kids and their spouses and kids were there, too. Some of them at least.

As usual, we gathered at Sister Debbie’s house. Debbie is the consummate hostess. Her house is decorated as if she were Mrs. Claus and the food was fantastic.

#4 wasn’t able to be there. (She lives in a far away land.) I sent her pictures and love during the celebration so she could still be part of things.

Our entertainment was so much fun. During the first part of the evening, Sister Debbie’s younger granddaughter watched us all dance as we tried to make her smile. She was just a little bit tired from all the Christmas fun she’d had, and since she isn’t a year old yet, it’s understandable she might get a little bit pooped out.

A cookie similar to "Gingerbread Man"...

Image via Wikipedia

And later Sister Cindy’s older grandson danced for us. (He turned a year old on the day I celebrated a year of pain free walking.) The child is full of personality and joy, and he even climbed on my lap for a moment or two.

We played Dirty Santa for ornaments, and like a dummy, I was the only one who actually made her own ornament to take.

The first one I made was this–

I knitted it from a show I watch on TV called Knitty Gritty. It’s one of my favorite shows, but they aren’t making any new segments. I watch the reruns faithfully and hope they’ll start making new ones. 

When I finished making the flower, it curled and flopped, so I wired the petals–not ideal if people are going to be handling it. (The poinsettia on TV was stiffer because they made it from wool and then washed it to turn it into a fabric. I didn’t do that.)

Rather than chance having someone get poked by the poinsettia, I decided to make another ornament. 

SD had mentioned taking ornaments that represent us, so I took a clear ball and put in lavender I’d dried last summer (because I’m a gardener) and “yarn”, which was really cross-stitch thread (because I’m a snitter) and a little snow (because I love snow) and a few sparkles just for the heck of it.

I don’t know that my niece who won it was thrilled, but it was fun to make. I tried one with miniature jingle bells, but the glass is so fragile on those clear ornaments that anything that heavy will break out the side. Or you have to not shake them, and who can hold an ornament with stuff inside and not shake it?

So this is what the one I took looks like–

I stole a good sized, sparkly gingerbread man from one of my BILs. When he pulled him out of the bag, Jeffrey put on his falsetto voice. “Don’t eat my gum drop buttons!” A line from one of the Shrek movies.

That’s another game we played last night. Actually, it’s more of an ongoing thing. We do movie quotes that go along with the action. (“Hello movie house!”) and the others try to guess the movie.

Funny thing is, my kids do the same thing and make it harder by throwing in a TV show along the way. Great fun if you watch the same stuff; a little tougher if you don’t.

The Dirty Santa big hit with the babies was a dancing snowman with a flashing nose that sang a song no one recognized. Brother Jeffrey ended up with an ornament that was a pair of six shooters (perfect!) and Sister Debbie got “Mine’s bigger than yours is.”

Did we have fun? Yes!

Would I change a thing? Only to get others there who weren’t able to make it.

If at all possible, will we do the same thing next year?   What do you think? 😉



"Father Christmas" is often synonymo...

Image via Wikipedia

I have a suggestion–why don’t we move Christmas to January? Just think, we’d have an extra month to shop and decorate and spend money.

 We might actually get things done we’ve always wanted to do, such as knit beautiful stockings and quilt mind boggling tree skirts. Create a handmade ornament for each of our friends. Bake things our mamas used to bake like divinity and peanut brittle. (I don’t even know. Do you bake divinity?)  

We’d have time to make Christmas seem really Christmassy.

Yes, Virginia, I know Christmas is celebrating the birth of Christ, and you can’t just change a birthday willie-nillie, but couldn’t we call it Christmas-30?

Come on. If St. Nick is also Father Christmas, he must have some daughters. He should be used to some females running perpetually behind. This could only help.

If we change the date, I might actually get the top 1/5 of my trees decorated. And have something in my yard besides dead grass, leaves and one lonely wreath. (At least the lights work on it.)

We could send out Christmas-30 cards and sing Christmas-30 songs. We could tell the kids that Santa missed us on the way past, or better yet, tell them he was running late. (They might as well get used to “late” from the beginning.)

In Oklahoma, anyway, we’re much more likely to have snow in January than December, so it would work out better for Santa, too.

Whatdoyouthink? Anybody with me here?

Okay, yes. You guessed it. I’m late getting ready for Christmas again, as usual. Think my kids will accept IOUs in their stockings again this year? 8)