Shiny Tin Cans on a Christmas Tree

What is it about a Christmas tree that brings back the child in all of us? 

Christmas treeThe question came to mind while reading “The Carpenter’s Gift” by David Rubel. The centerpiece of this charming story is a boy whose family has fallen upon hard times. I felt an unexpected ache as I read that they used shiny tin cans to brighten up their Christmas tree.

The image took me back to memorable Christmas trees of my childhood. The aroma of pine.  The glow of a candle-bedecked tree, lit only when you were there to watch the flickering lights across a darkened room. The dancing reflections of a lights on shards of a broken mirror, painstakingly glued to the branches. Strings of fresh cranberries and homemade popcorn.  It was a simpler world in which a shiny tin can hung on a tree could be a source of delight to a child.  

It has been decades since I had such a Christmas tree, as I too succumbed to the urge to buy pretty things to hang on the branches. True, I never flocked a tree, and I never used boxes of store-bought ornaments. I hung my tree with souvenirs of my travels or important moments in my life. But over time, as the intensity of the memories faded, those momentos morphed into inert things to be unpacked, hung, and repacked.

Last year, in an effort to simplify life, my partner and I gave them all away.  This year, our Christmas tree is metaphorical — a nine-foot tall ficus, hung only with plain white lights and bits of glass to magnify the reflection.  

It pleases me in a way that past trees, buried under mountains of things, never did. 

Am I the only one who longs for a simpler time?


  1. Robin Fortney says

    I’m glad the story stirred good memories! There is something quite special about little white lights, isn’t there?!

    My favorite Christmas tree to date was made of three small dogwood branches that fell during an ice storm. I brought them inside, wired them together and planted them in a 3-gallon bucket of sand. I added little white lights and hung bits of mussel shells, bird nests, arrow heads and such that I’d found on sandbars during previous years of paddling. I loved it and kept it up for several years – adding things as I felt like it because the tree felt welcoming when I came home after dark. Several years ago, I dismantled it in preparation for a house redo project. This year I hung a few special new ornaments from the deer antlers over my front door!

    I was married long ago on a January night. We cut a few small cedar trees from a nearby pasture, hung little white lights on the trees and arranged them at the front of the church.

    Simple usually feels best, doesn’t it!

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