"I've Been Flashed For the First Time!"
Yes, I've experienced my first original flash mob! I was sitting in the food court at Polaris Mall near Columbus while Dorothy did a little more shopping. The place was packed, but that's not unusual in a food court at Polaris as the holiday times near.
I'm not really sure how slow or small it started, but it wasn't long before there were numerous young people standing up singing the Hallelujah Chorus a cappella. It was awesome! Really, I think the sound in a large mall of a mass choir is hard to beat. I have no idea where the group was from - there was no announcement and they all split when they finished.
Sorry for the shameless post title, but now that I have your attention, I have a few other things on my mind. Actually, I've been contemplating writing something about Christmas trees for a couple of weeks. First, a little review of their historical association with the present season.
Like most of the traditions associated with the season we Christians popularly refer to as Christmas, the utilizing of evergreens to adorn the insides of our homes had a secular or at least non-Christian beginning. Long before Christianity began, ancient people decorated their homes during the winter with evergreens. In some countries it was believed such practices would ward off evil spirits. (1)
Many countries developed festivities around the winter soltice - December 21 & 22. Winter greenery - evergreens - reminded them that spring and summer would bring back other green plants. Through the centuries more cultural celebrations morphed from these early meanings to the presence of evergreens during the winter months. But you can read more about that if you care to at many sites. Just google "the history of Christmas trees." I usually start with history.com.
It's believed by most historical scholars that our Christmas tree tradition began in Germany sometime in the 16th century and that Martin Luther was the first to add lighted candles. Apparently, while walking home one evening the stars twinkling between the branches of evergreen trees really left an impression on him. (2)
The tradition was a little slow to be adopted as an appropriate way to celebrate the season. In fact, it was regarded as a pagan symbol as late as 1840. The Puritans especially were concerned about such frivolous activities (Christmas trees, Christmas carols, joyful celebrations) influencing the sacredness of Christmas. (3)
OK, enough of the history lesson. Christmas trees were one of the seasonal things dad came up with us to do to provide a little extra cash for the family business - Croy's Produce. They were on display in our front yard on West Main Street in Ottawa. As I remember how it all came together each year, Grandpa Paul Croy would go to Michigan and purchase the trees for us to sell - some years hauling them back himself and other years a truck bringing them to us.
I absolutely enjoyed selling those trees. It was the helping someone or a family find their perfect tree that offered the biggest thrill. People would point to a tree, I would pull it out and into an open area, thump its trunk bottom on the ground to shake out the loose needles and sometimes snow and to help the branches spread out. Then I would spin it around so the customer could get a good look at the whole tree. Most of our customers were people from the area that we already knew. I remember finally being trusted to price the trees myself (perhaps only a figment of my imagination knowing my dad!). It was cold work, but so enjoyable seeing satisfied customers walk away with that year's treasure and put the $3, $4, up to maybe $10 in the money pouch (trees weren't near as expensive in those days).
The last few days before Christmas may have been my favorite time though. Dad would decide the stock was getting low enough or time was getting short to unload what remained and he would start cutting the price and then Christmas eve and free trees! They weren't the pick of the front yard woods but they were sure to brighten some family's gathering. There were a few trees that were free earlier in the season as well as dad instructed us to take to such and such a house a tree because he knew they were in need. I remember a time or two when on the spot he would announce that "there's no charge for that tree, Merry Christmas!"
Sometime during those years I swore there would always be a real tree in my homes. Artificial trees were just beginning to be marketed but they were pretty ugly. Luckily, I married a woman who felt the same way and so it was for the first 15-20 years of our family life. When we shopped for a tree we didn't go to just one lot though - seemed like dozens of places had them and we would find the perfect one if we just went to another place. White Cottage in Lima was where we had the most success. But sometimes we also ventured out when the children were young to one of those tree farms and cut our own.
Then came a dark and dreary night during the Advent of 1985 or 86 or 87. I was at some "important," I'm sure, meeting at Linden Heights UMC. As I remember it the tree had already been up for a few days. This was in the days before cell phones but somehow Dorothy got the message to someone at church that I should hurry home. Like I said, it was an important meeting and continued having conversations with people as I felt I needed to and in about an hour I headed home.
After pulling the car into the garage I opened the door to the family room and discovered my wife standing on a chair, balancing herself against the picture window while holding onto the tree - she'd been like that for over an hour! I'm sure you all have seen people with steam coming out of their head? Well, this was something more like steam and ice and the red that accompanies anger all rolled into one. I don't remember her exact words but they were something like: "Where have you been? Get over here and hold this tree for awhile!" (Don't ask Dorothy for the details as our versions differ a bit, but you get the picture! I was in real trouble!)
We're still married but when the artificial trees went on sale after the holidays we were definitely in the market for one. You know, it's amazing how much more authentic they've become since my early vow to not have anything to do with them! We're on our third one in 20+ years - our most recent one is even pre lit! Oh, the last couple of years we've ended up with a real tree also to support a local food bank, but keep those complimentary comments coming about how much like a real tree our artificial one looks. It strokes our egos!
Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Seasons Greetings! Happy New Year!
1. history.com, "History of Christmas Trees."