Holly, spruce, Paraná pine, palm boats, pinecones, balls of papier maché, tinsel – whatever thy hand findeth to do! We used to plan Christmas decorations starting the day after Thanksgiving, but where I live there is no USA-style thanksgiving tradition, and the stores and shopping centers start putting out holiday decorations beginning of November. For years I have wanted to put up a real rooted pine tree, planted in a big box for transplanting to the front yard so next year we have a tall outdoor tree. Not a branch stuck in a twenty-liter can of sand that dries up by the time January 6th comes round – but an old-fashioned Tannenbaum, decorated with antique colored glass balls, intricate paper cutouts, bows and pinecones and maybe even popcorn.

The first year we got back after six in the States (where friends had given us their retired artificial tree) our stuff had not arrived (heard that it went on a ship all the way to Argentina before getting to Brasilia in March ’93), so Christmas having my mother and aunt Jinny as guests in our home for the first time in ages was celebrated with borrowed furniture and a miniscule make-do Christmas tree with tiny silver-colored red-bowed presents as decorations). It was also wedding season – Davi and Adriana were tying the knot in a splendidly beautiful ceremony December 23rd, so Christmas decorations were not top priority (Actually Christmas season weddings have become a tradition, started with Lau and me in ’66, and Dan and Márcia following Davi and Adriana’s).

In following years, I alternated between natural versus artificial trees each year, and all the natural ones we planted in rainy season January did not take root, but withered and dried. I shared the Jewish sentiment: “Next year in Jerusalem...”, and as for decorations, bought a few more each year, so our tree was getting prettier with age – but was never the bona fide, extravagantly artistic tree laden with symbols to the aroma of ginger and spices and sound of joyous carols. Oh, I loved to bake and make jelly and cookies to share with friends, so there was always a Christmassy spirit around, and cherished singing in the choir on the streets and in hospitals and malls. I admire artistic talent and would love to spend time and a little bit of money crafting and producing symbols or even tiny indications of the beauty of the season -- but have to be content with the trite and simple of my rushed last-minute decorations. Had planned to dig up a pine tree among the eucalyptii from our yonder hill, plant it in a big container and make it our centertree for this year’s festivities, but Lau informed me that it will die if we dig it up and attempt a later transplant. He suggested we confect a tree from the abundant bamboo that sprouts in our yard, but when he tried to bind together the boughs, they sagged and dropped ingloriously. So I suggested we get the bottom boughs of the Paraná pine tree – the only typically Brazilian Araucaria – and raise up our tree. Wiring together the tree (not with lights, but literal metal wires to unite the prickly boughs) was no easy task. It was as if we were putting together a puzzle of live porcupines (those pesky animals that destroyed our corn last year, and every year fill the snouts of our disobedient dogs with dozens of awful spurs that take hours to be tweezer-extracted!). But finally Lau and Daniel finished our natural tree and dug it into the sand-filled twenty-liter copper container that my Dad got in Goiás Velho over fifty years ago. Beautiful. Ruth and I hung the balls and decked the halls among the prickles (well, actually our living-dining-kitchen is not a hall, and we only decked with boughs a wooden container a pastor-friend from the Congo gave us years ago, with colored balls and wooden people and animal figurines from Africa, Asia, America (North and South). A touch of global intent for the Advent, sided by two menorahs.

But my holiday decorations have never been up to par with my feelings of joy at God’s generous – yea, extravagant Gift – of Christ who was born not on Christmas day, but one day unknown by us was born, when He entered humanity and bestowed eternity on fallen humans. Before time ever was, the Greatest Decision Ever was made in sovereign counsel by the Triune God. The Lamb of God was held by a handmaid of the Lord, and placed in a manger. Angels and shepherds and farm animals were witnesses. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Though my Christmas decorations will never be on par with those of my friends elsewhere, our family celebrates Christmas every day, any day, all day, even when we forget.

Yea, Lord we greet Thee, born this happy morning (or was it some other midnight clear?)
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given!
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing:
Venite Adoremus, Oh come let us adore Thee, Ó vinde adoremos
Christ the Lord!

Elizabeth Gomes

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