Sunday, December 25, 2016

The most beautiful Christmas tree in Mexico and possibly the world

Last night was Christmas Eve and there was nary a light around our ranch except for millions of stars dangling like crystal ornaments from the pitch-black sky and the multi-colored LED lights Félix and Stew had wrapped on a perfectly shaped evergreen we planted near the house several years ago and which has grown to about ten, maybe twelve, feet high. It's our official Christmas tree.

It's a sassy, plump and straight evergreen, I believe a member of the piñón pine family, but with no unruly branches. It stands like a sentinel awaiting its year-end star turn when it becomes the most beautiful Christmas tree within miles and miles.

A most beautiful tree, lighting up the desert night. 
By nordic standards, of course, it is woefully out of place. We have no snow unless you count the silly millimeter that fell three or four years ago. Our tree is tucked amid rocks, huge agaves, organ cacti, a carpet of succulents and what remains of the delicate plumes of a clump of pampas grasses. During the summer the grasses rise gracefully over their clunkier neighbors but in fall they wither and seem shaky and fearful, aware the next afternoon gust likely will blow down their plumes and scatter their seeds.
The idea of a designated outdoor Christmas tree arose from our loathing of using "real" evergreens—which around here come from as far as Canada and the U.S.—simply to decorate our living room for fifteen days or so. It takes so long for an evergreen to grow to Christmas-tree size only to be tossed in the backyard. What a waste.

So three years ago Stew picked out this specimen that we had planted years before near the house by the driveway, and he and Félix began wrapping lights and hanging silver and blue ornaments around it. As the tree continues to grow, quickly and perfectly, we are going to have to buy additional strings of lights and a few more ornaments for next year.

Yesterday I caressed the tree branches find out if they had that piney aroma. The branches don't smell at all but they are tipped with tiny bundles of acorns getting ready to turn to needles next year. What I definitely felt from this beautiful tree was its sense of importance: Somehow it knows its seasonal role during Christmas, when only it and the stars dare shatter the darkness.

Tiny acorns awaiting next year's Christmas.
The simplicity of our annual Christmas decor fits that of our Mexican neighbors who may hang some lights, assemble a nativity scene or prop up a small, hastily decorated tree here and there, but nothing fancy. The most involved rituals are the posadas, small house-to-house pilgrimages in the towns meant to reenact, with songs, prayers and candles, the story of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter as Jesus' birth approached.

That's it. There are no neighborhood competitions to see how many thousands of lights one homeowner can hang on a house without burning up the electrical grid, the blare of "seasonal music" or inflatable Santas tumbling drunkenly in front yards.

Shopping centers in Mexico have taken up the clue from their American counterparts and install shrill, commercially designed light displays and Christmas trees. Several years ago the federal government began promoting a nationwide weekend shopping spree shamelessly patterned after Black Friday in the U.S.

But one doesn't feel any shopping frenzy as Christmas approaches. There is a one-night burst of shopping the day before Three Kings Day on January 6, when parents buy toys for the kids, but otherwise no real fervor to the Christmas shopping cycle. Have you ever heard of a horde of crazed Mexican shoppers trampling each other at a WalMart pre-Christmas sale? In the U.S., maybe.

Inside our home, Stew's childhood cardboard creche, which he bought at a Woolworths in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, some sixty years ago, made its annual appearance. The figures in the nativity scene still have their price stickers, ranging from five to ten cents. The only enhancements are a pine garland we bought a Norwegian gift shop in New York, and some sheep and farm animals made of sugar, left over from the Mexican Day of the Dead.

For the past sixty years or so, direct from Woolworths in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 
It has been even quieter for us as we maintain our boycott of most television programming, to avoid news about what the incoming president of the U.S. might inflict on the country, assuming he knows. Christmas carols occasionally waft in through our internet radio, but mostly from a Dutch-language Amsterdam classical music station. It's the perfect filtering system: soothing music interrupted only briefly by incomprehensible commercials and news reports.

While talking to expat friends earlier this week about Christmas-in-exile experiences most agreed that what they liked most was the simplicity. No airport or expressway jams, no constant blare from retailers to buy, buy, buy. We might buy a gift for a special person, or have a nice quiet dinner at home.

While in Texas two weeks ago, we bought Félix's girls stuffed toys, his boy the inevitable soccer ball, plus a blender for his wife to use in her newly remodeled kitchen and a Felix the Cat tee-shirt for Félix, who turns out never heard of the cartoon character. Ever so Félix, he was appreciative of the thought.

Last night we attended a Christmas Eve service and dinner afterward with friends. This afternoon we're having dinner with friends who have relatives visiting from Britain.

Other than that, I just plan to take a quick walk at night to admire one more time the stars, and our perfect Christmas tree that we will keep lit until January 6.

Meanwhile, Merry Christmas everyone.

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5 comments:

  1. Merry Christmas to you and yours from sunny and cold Vancouver, BC.

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  2. And a very blessed Christmas to both of you. I have spent eight years in Mexico ignoring political news from The States. It is easy to get used to.

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  3. Merry Christmas. The nativity is precious. My favorite of all I've seen this year. Thank you for sharing it. Here's to the best new year yet (fingers crossed, leap of faith...).

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  4. Happy Christmas to you, We had the same nativity scene when I was growing up! It probably also came from Woolworth's too. I didn't decorate at all this year, so you have me beat.

    regards,
    Theresa

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  5. It was a delight to see ya'll on Christmas Eve, but I so wanted to jump ship and sit at your table and catch up on your lives.......NEXT time I will - if there is a next time - not at that restaurant though.
    YOUR tree is stupendous.

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