Christmas Tales

December 16, 2019

Julie Traynor Postcards from the Pine Columnist

I missed the Christmas meeting of the Marion Area Historical Society, and for that, I am sad. Each December the group shares a memory or two of Christmases past.  I always enjoy the festivities and talk of Christmas in Marion, Michigan during those proverbial ‘good old days’. I remember some of those days, and as we all know, I like to share the stories. 

On my November deer season widow’s tour with my sis-in-laws, I purchased a bag of Christmas memories at a Lansing area antique mall. Thrift stores, fleas, consignment and antique malls are among some of our favorite places and visiting stores off our radar was a real treat.  By Sunday, we’d prowled a good many but a real treasure was elusive. The novelty was wearing thin, as were my weary feet. They were winning the battle. Then, somewhere deep in the bowels of this enormous antique mall, I turned around and there, in a bag at the top of a wicker laundry basket full of vintage Christmas decorations, I struck some most unexpected Marion memories.

The object of my déjà vu was a gallon size Ziploc bag bulging with old Christmas tree garland. At first glance, and maybe second, they are nothing to write home about. One is red, the other green and each is very long. The garlands are made of a heavy paper stock that has been machine fringed or frayed then twisted onto string, or vice versa. They are likely WWII era decorations and they took my breath away, but not because of their beauty or their age. They left me stunned because of the rush of memories this plastic bag full of paper brought.

Garland like this, along with the usual ornaments and strings of large colored lights and heavy icicles was draped on the traditional sparse balsam put up in Marion’s United Methodist Church Sunday school in the 1950’s. The decorated tree, along with fold-open green and red paper bells festooned the basement meeting rooms each year. As our teachers reminded us, the Sunday school was decorated for Jesus birthday party.

I have always been enamored of Christmas trees. As a child, I was fascinated by them and soon discovered that Christmas trees were not all the same. Everyone had an opinion about the kind and size of a tree and there were as many choices in decorations as there were people. I studied and appreciated all the Christmas trees I saw, for they truly are a fleeting thing.

The Sunday school tree was one of the first I knew other than family trees. For a few precious Sunday mornings in December, I gave that tree plenty of my attention. Likely attention I should have been giving to the lesson. Nevertheless, three things about that tree impressed me. First, the lovely ornaments; second the quantity of icicles, for those were the days when the heavy aluminum icicles were icicles and a lot of them spectacular; and third, the red and green garland perfectly draped about the tree like icing on a birthday cake. It was just perfect in my young eyes. After all, it was Jesus’ birthday.

That has all been a lot of Decembers ago. I’ve seen and put up a good many Christmas trees since then. In fact, I’d forgotten the Methodist Sunday school Christmases of my childhood…until that Sunday morning about a month ago when I put my hand on that garland and for a moment I was six again.

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