“Why are we doing this?” my husband asked.

“Because we are.”

“It’s only going to be the two of us.”

I ignored him and shook the branches of the Christmas tree we were dragging up the stairs from the basement, all seven feet of it. Some of the branches were looking a little worn, their evergreen needles having fallen off somewhere between the living room and its usual spot in a dark corner downstairs. I suppose after nine years service, it’s not looking too bad.

Then we went for the boxes. Last year I’d done a good job packing up the ornaments and wrapping paper, labeling everything carefully. Only three boxes to haul upstairs.

Years ago, my clever, time-saving husband had bought a tree with the lights already on it. So all I had to do was fluff out the branches, making the tree look like it had just come from of a forest.

From far away, it was pretty convincing.

Then it was time for the ornaments. Each one held a memory. The five or six glass ornaments my parents bought when they first married sixty years ago. Gifts from friends over the years. The white china angel that came with my wedding china. Handmade ornaments, made lovingly by people I’ve forgotten.

Then there were the souvenirs of my travels abroad. The intricately painted eggs, purple and white and yellow, from eastern Europe. The wooden painted sea horses and monkeys from El Salvador. The Russian dolls, in their red and green dresses with pointed headdresses. The tiny faces of Cossacks with long mustaches from Ukraine. And then my favorites: the white felt camel with a saucy grin, purple pointed hats with feathers on top and tiny felt yurts from Kazakhstan.

After I lugged the empty boxes back to the basement I sank into a chair and surveyed my work. Yes, it was a job that sucked up two hours. But the peaceful, nostalgic feeling I got looking at the tree and thinking the people who crossed my life when the ornaments did was payment enough.

Why do we bother with trees and lights and gifts? To remember what happened 2000 years ago. Just as the light came into the world, so the lights on the Christmas trees remind us of why we rejoice.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!!

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