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What to Love About a Simple Christmas Tree


Each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my husband places our Christmas tree in the center of our family room. This pre-lit, artificial pine stands around seven feet tall, and instead of a fresh, forest-y scent, it smells of a musty garage. This year half of its bulbs remained dark when we first plugged it in, so we untangled strands of lights to bedeck its branches. After filling in the dark patches with auxiliary lights, we began to fluff the prickly pine. Then, we opened boxes and boxes of ornaments—a menagerie collected over 23 years—and hung them all.

Our Christmas tree reminds me a bit of Charlie Brown’s memorable tree. It’s a little worn out compared to the full, fresh trees I see in Christmas tree lots. It’s a little chaotic next to the carefully planned and decorated trees I see at many friends’ homes. There are no color-coordinated ornaments and ribbons, no pheasant feathers or glittery twigs emerging from the top. Some of our ornaments are store bought, while our two sons made the others over the years. Snowmen, Santas, and angels hang side by side with Buzz, Woody, and Darth Vadar.

I confess: when it comes time to decorate for the holidays, I feel a bit “Grinch” like. I don’t consult a decorator, search Pinterest for creative ideas, or even consider color scheme. Instead, I keep it simple and work with what I’ve got. Some years I yearn for the tradition of venturing out with the boys to chop down a live tree, the smell of fresh pine, and the beauty of a carefully composed tree. I appreciate the splendor of these trees when I visit the homes of others.

Our Christmas tree reminds me a bit of Charlie Brown’s memorable tree.

It’s oh-so-easy at this time of year to be caught up in comparison. As my Facebook feed shows me the creative ways other women celebrate the holiday, I can begin to feel less and less. Our decorations are simple, our tree is a hodgepodge, and there is no elf on our shelf. Comparison whispers that I’m blowing the holidays, and envy encourages me to want the sparkle and shine I see in other’s windows. Christmas cheer turns into holiday ho-hum.

During the Christmas season, and truly in all seasons, it is important for me to remain mindful of my family, our distinct personality, and to cultivate traditions that are meaningful to us. Then, it’s important for me to take time to savor those traditions and the holiday memories they hold. Instead of comparing, I choose to cherish. Rather than envying, I decide to embrace.
Our Christmas tree has a beauty of its own. The many and varied ornaments remind me of the life we have built together—from ornaments received at a shower prior to our New Year’s Eve wedding, to handcrafted ornaments featuring pictures of the boys through the years, to gourd ornaments hand-painted by my mother. As I hang each one of these, precious memories return afresh and bring with them a tender smile. The simplicity and charm of our tree suits us, but more than that, it reflects who we are a family. For that reason alone, it is beautiful.

For more articles on the holidays and contentment, read The Holidays and My Martha Heart7 Holiday Traditions to Start With Your FamilyGirl, It’s Perfectly OK to Be Yourself This Holiday Seasonand Instagram Envy During the Holidays: Beware of the Pitfall


Susan cherishes the beauty of the Smoky Mountains, the bloom of a Dogwood tree, and the taste of her mother’s pound cake. She betrays her roots by taking her tea “unsweetened.”

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