Just this once, Christmas spirit comes early

I guess you could say the Christmas spirit has come my way a little bit early this year.
This is unusual.
Don’t get me wrong; I love the Christmas season. Always have. But I’ve always been careful to put Christmas after Thanksgiving, and not before it.
You see, I was raised to be thankful, especially on Thanksgiving Day, and I’ve always considered those early celebrations of Christmas before the observance of Thanksgiving to be bad form. So we’ve always waited until after Thanksgiving to put up the Christmas tree and tinsel. We waited until after Thanksgiving to put up the lights and hang our green leafy wreath on the door.
To humbly observe the day set aside to be thankful seemed only fair, and Christmas simply had to wait its turn.
But the other day I woke up one morning from a late night at work and, for some reason, began to think about a little green ceramic Christmas tree that had been in the family for decades. Many, many decades, in fact. I think I was still in high school when it became a fixture in my parents’ home during the Christmas season.
Oh, it’s not much to look at. And when I was growing up, it wasn’t ever meant to be a substitute for our real tree. Our real tree (or, should I say, our main fake tree that we dusted off year after year) always stood in the picture window with its twinkling lights, looking ever so cozy to people going by on the street. This little green ceramic tree always sat on the other side of the living room, on an end table.
It’s only a little over one foot tall. Prissy people would say it’s tacky, and maybe they’re right. The green glaze on the tree isn’t particularly impressive and some of the “branch” ends that are tipped with what’s supposed to look like snow are chipped from wear. But the tree is hollowed out on the inside to rest atop a light bulb, with a cord that can plug into an outlet. The ceramic branches of the tree have little holes built into them where cheaply-made transparent plastic bulbs fit, and when the cord is plugged in the light fills up the bulbs with red, blue and green hues.
Groggily, I shuffled down our basement that morning (after my wife, Sandy, had already gone to work) to search for the cardboard box containing our little ceramic tree. The plastic bulbs were there, too.
I took the ceramic tree upstairs and carefully placed it on an end table in our new Worthington home. I plugged it in and it looked like it always had.
I sat down and stared at it, thinking of all those past Christmases it had played a small part in our annual holiday celebration.
This year, it doesn’t matter to me that Thanksgiving is still two weeks away and we’ve already got a Christmas tree on the premises. This little ceramic tree, you see, is much more to me than a tacky little ceramic tree.
This was the tree my mother used to enjoy as her primary Christmas tree after my father passed away in 1990. It is the tree she took with her to the assisted living home in North Mankato six years ago when Sandy and I brought her from Sibley, Iowa, to live across the street from us. And it is the tree she had in her tiny room at the nursing home there where she lived the final year of her life. Mom passed away on Dec. 17, 2012, at the age of 93.
I love that little tree.
Merry Christmas, a little early this year.

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