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Fill your Christmas tree with love and memories

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It may seem odd to many people to be talking about decorating your Christmas tree a week before Christmas Eve. Before artificial trees arrived on the scene, many families put their trees up later in the season.

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Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition in the 16th century. According to History.com, it took several hundred years for the Christmas tree tradition to come to America.

Many of the early Christmas ornaments used in the United States were shipped here from Germany. These old world ornaments have seen a comeback in recent years.

In my parents' home, the Christmas tree was put up on Christmas Eve. My dad hung the lights and the tree was magically decorated after Midnight Mass to the wonder of all of us kids on Christmas morning.

My mom always found it strange that I put my Christmas tree up earlier in the year. In my family, our Christmas tree is traditionally put up on my birthday in early December.

Decorating the tree on my birthday has been my family tradition since my children's youngest days. Sometimes the tree is completed on my birthday, but more often the decorating is just started on my birthday and finished over the next week or so as time permits.

Some families enjoy a different theme on their trees each year. The theme on our Christmas tree is always the same. Love and memories decorate our Christmas tree each year.

Our Christmas tree is filled with ornaments of various colors, each one with a story to tell. Some were handcrafted by my children or grandchildren. Others were gifts from family members or dear friends.

One of my Christmas traditions is to give each child a new ornament every year. As each child leaves home, most of their ornaments go with them but we've kept at least one baby's first Christmas ornament from each child's collection.

Each of my children has favorite ornaments on the tree and there's always laughter and joy as we decorate the tree, recalling the memories of Christmas past.

For some parents, decorating the tree is a chore to be done quickly. As for me, I savor decorating the Christmas tree and spending time recalling Christmas through the years.

As I hang an ornament with a photo my two daughters before my son was born, I can almost see their excitement on Christmas morning.

As I place an ornament from my oldest grandson beside the ornament from his mom's first Christmas, I can almost see her in her walker in front of the Christmas tree trying to reach the ornaments and lights.

The old mix with the new on our tree. Ornaments decorated by all of our kids one of the first Christmases after I remarried bring back memories of our newly blended family.

Treasured ornaments given to us by my mom and sisters bring back memories of Christmases during my childhood and the excitement of Christmas morning.

Special ornaments mark family members who have left our presence too soon. A photo ornament of my father-in-law hangs beside an A&W Root Bear ornament, a memento of the days when my brother-in-law managed his local A&W Root Beer restaurant.

Looking at my children's ornaments on the Christmas tree is like walking back in time. Each year's ornament marked something important in their life at that time.

There are soccer and baseball players, ballerina and flute playing angels, dolphins and shoppers, miniature Nativity scenes and special ornaments to mark the colleges each child attended.

Sadly, some of my children's handcrafted ornaments were destroyed when flood waters came into our basement one year. But a few of the ornaments made with love by their young hands remain.

As my children grew older, they began giving me a new ornament for the tree each year. The ornaments they chose reflected my interests and my love of Christmas.

There are also ornaments given to me through the years by some of the great managers I've worked for at the post office and from customers I've helped.

One of my son's favorites is EneMan, an enema man ornament given to me many years ago by a postal customer whose company makes enemas.

There are also Coca-Cola ornaments which were given to me and coworkers each year by the manager of the local bottling company.

The ornaments on the tree mark our journey as a family and include mementos from vacation trips we've taken. A snowflake made from salt from the Great Salt Lake is a memento from our cross-country journey in the late '90s.

One Christmas tree is way too small for all of the ornaments in our family's collection. Each year, I sort through to choose the favorites from over the years and somehow manage to make them all fit.

For the past couple of years, we've also had a tabletop tree to hold some of the smaller ornaments. Every year, I say we'll have two trees the next year but that hasn't happened yet.

I love the photo ornaments of our children and grandchildren best of all. One of my other favorite ornaments is one given to us many years ago by my mom.

It's a very simple wood ornament with a picture of a family decorating their Christmas tree. Written on the ornament are the words, "A Family's Love is the Meaning of Christmas". For me, that says it all.

As you decorate your family's Christmas tree each year, think back to Christmases past and look forward to Christmases to come. But don't lose sight of Christmas present, the best gift of all.

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