Our stockings aren’t hung from the chimney with care…not yet, but the Christmas trees are all up. When I was a kid, we had one little tree at Christmas, and it was not put up until a couple of days before Christmas Day. That was because a coal heater in the room with a live Christmas tree can cause quite a light show, but not the kind any family wants to see. We always went to the woods behind our house and chopped down a little cedar. We tried to find one with at least three-good sides, with no hornet’s nest in it. We turned the bad side to the wall, so no one would see it.

My how things have changed since those days. Jean and I still have only one Christmas tree…one in each room of the house, that is. Even that’s not true because some rooms have more than one. We have more trees inside our house at Christmas than the forest behind our house has. Now, honestly, some of them are little ones, but there are at least three full-size ones.

Jean makes our house look so beautiful at Christmas. In our early years of marriage things were much different. Our first Christmas as a married couple, we lived in a small two-bedroom apartment on the Samford University campus in Birmingham.

I had never bought a Christmas tree in my life, but there were no woods behind our apartment. I can’t remember how much we paid for that first one, but I know it was only a few dollars. Now they cost a few-hundred dollars and they aren’t even real. We were broke, young married, college-age kids. We could barely afford the tree, so we couldn’t afford to buy decorations and ornaments for the tree, so we made our own. We used the old-style clothes pins, the kind with two legs and a round knob at the top. We painted them to look like tin soldiers, football players, and other things. We also painted old-light bulbs red and glued cotton them to make them look like Santa Claus. My favorites were made from the soft-drink cups we brought home from big nights of dining out. Our favorites fine-dining establishments back then were McDonalds and Krystal. Using scissors, we cut strips in the cups, starting at the top and going almost to the bottom. Then we flared the strips out all the way around, making them look like stars. We spray painted them different colors and added glitter to some of them. We were into repurposing things even back then. One would think after 47-Christmases, those old-paper-cup ornaments would be in shreds. Some are and some are gone, but unbelievably three-or-four are hanging on our “main tree” right now. Jean rotates them from year to year to save the wear-and-tear on them, but a few are still together. We also still have the clothes-pin ornaments, and two light-bulb Santas. We have so many ornaments on our trees these days you can barely see the tree, but those old homemade ones will always be my favorites.

Christmas is not about the trees, the decorations, or the presents. Christmas is first and foremost about Jesus. It is, after all, His birthday, not ours. Next, Christmas is about family. I am blessed to have spent so many Christmases with Jean, the love of my life. Thirty-four years ago, we were blessed with a wonderful daughter, and now we have been joined by a fine son-in-law, and the greatest grandson in the world (in my humble opinion). There is joy in our world! May you too be blessed with the joys of Christmas!

— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal Wednesday edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.

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