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Not leaving this tradition behind Richard Peña | Sat, Dec 24 2011 12:00 PM

In last week’s issue of the paper we wrote about the Magi, one of the symbols of the Christmas season. Some folks have suggested that it is the most important of the season. We somewhat doubt that. The reason for this is that they are all important and they all combine to make the season what it is. Even the lowly mistletoe, a parasite, no less, is very big in the Christmas season.
There is one symbol, however, that I think is highly important, simply because it graces nearly every household in the land, and that is the Christmas tree. 
It is certainly part of mine. 
The other day, Mike Gailband, one of my neighbors and a good friend, came by with his pickup-truck and we went over to the Pinery on Sweetwater Road to retrieve our seasonal Noble Fir.  
This is something that has been a ritual of ours for some years. We go to the Pinery and not only get our tree but we renew the old friendship we have had with the couple who run it. Judy and John Crumley are the folks who come here every year from one of those cold states up north and dispense pumpkins in October and evergreen trees in December.  We enjoy not only their company and pleasantness, but also the ambiance of the site.
I was thinking of Christmas trees the other day as I decorated mine with the traditional red lights that we adopted some time back. 
In my growing up years we always had a tree at Christmas.  We had an uncle who had a ranch out in the hill country near San Antonio. Each Christmas my dad would load us up in whatever transportation he had and to the woods we would go.  We would debate, argue, and then finally select a tree that was suitable and home we would go to let our mother do her thing.
The tree that we brought home was not the symmetrically honed type that we get nowadays. It was generally a cedar tree that had limbs growing in all different directions. But what it lacked in shape it made up in aroma and space. The entire house was one pleasant smelling place that lasted all the days of the Christmas season. 
On top of that my mother, the chief decorator in the household, made that tree look like one of those examples that lit up the downtown stores’ windows.
My mother, however, had one fault at Christmas time.  She was not too good at hiding presents. Our house, like almost every house on the block, had a parlor. In many households the parlor was open only on special occasions.  This was the room, in our house, that housed that Christmas tree.
Our parlor had one imposing piece of furniture: a piano. It was one of those old fashioned upright types that sat in one corner of the room. It sat diagonal to two adjoining walls forming a triangular space behind it. This space was ideal, my mother thought, to hide gifts. With a house full of kids she should have known better. It wasn’t too long before I discovered it. Being somewhat devious I enticed my younger brother to go exploring. He did and was caught. The parlor, therefore, became a forbidden land for every kid until Christmas morning.
The literature has an extensive account of the history of the Christmas tree, too detailed to relate in this space.  Suffice to say that it originated in Germany and worked its way to other European countries and eventually to the new land.
The earliest account of Christmas trees in this country was in the early l800s. It is believed that Canada had Christmas trees somewhat sooner.
There are few things that are more imposing or eye-catching than one of those tall trees adorned with lights and other decorations in the town square. This can be any tree from that massive evergreen sent over from Norway to be erected on the White House lawn to the modest one at the Bonita Museum.
I am content with the one in my parlor.

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