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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Holvino: Trimming The Tree

James Cumming
On December 25, 2015, the commentator joyfully posed with one of her Christmas tree creations.

Like the Christmas story itself, it’s a mystery to me, how every year I buy and schlep a six foot tall balsam fir into my home and spend hours decorating it, while my British partner sits on the sofa drinking tea and egging me on.
The tradition, according to Wikipedia, started in Latvia in the 16th century, traveled to Germany, and then reached Britain in Victorian times, when it became popular.

For me, the tradition started as I watched my mother patiently weaving the lights in and out, from top to bottom around the tree. I was the one to bring out the boxes of delicate glass ornaments which were kept high in my bedroom closet and then carefully unwrapped and placed throughout the tree. I was mortified when every so often one of them slipped from my tiny hands and broke into a hundred silver pieces.

Buying and decorating the Christmas tree defined the beginning of the holidays. My mother and I bought two trees every mid-December: one for our home and one that was donated to the church. Both were meticulously selected from a cold trailer that sold imported trees from Canada at the San Juan pier.

Today, it’s such a treat to buy a freshly cut tree from a farm nearby, knowing that besides buying local, more than twenty-five million real Christmas Trees are sold in the U.S. every year, grown on approximately fifteen-thousand farms - employing more than a hundred thousand people full or part-time.

For me, it’s a tradition of memory, love and joy. And like many, over the years I’ve gathered an eclectic collection of beautiful ornaments, which I arrange to create what to me is a complex, if ephemeral, work of art.

And this year we’re planning a Christmas-tree-viewing party for our friends and neighbors. While we won’t be singing O Tannenbaum, I hope that gathering around the lighted and decorated tree will fill our hearts with appreciation for one another and help us join in the true meaning of the season.

Evangelina Holvino is a creative non-fiction writer and a free-lance consultant on issues of social differences and justice in non-profit organizations.
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