As a child of the 50’s/60’s, I grew up thinking that EVERYONE put tinsel on their Christmas trees – and if they were rich enough, they actually had a silver tree which would sparkle all the time. How could anyone decorate a tree without those wonderful strings reflecting the lights of the tree? It was incomprehensible – and it could possibly make it impossible for Santa to see the beautiful shiny Christmas tree to guide him to our house. Tinsel was an ESSENTIAL decorating tool for Christmas trees – and you could never have enough.
In our house, each of us had our own package of brand-new tinsel to put on the tree. There were always five little girls waiting patiently for the lights to be put on the tree and then all of the ornaments – some of which, only Mom was allowed to hang in just the right place. As soon as the last ornament was hung, we were each handed our own un-opened package of bright, silver tinsel to place on the tree. We each positioned ourselves around the tree and based on our height and our reach, we started very delicately placing strands over the end of the branches. Of course, by the time we were close to being finished – and also for those very high spots on the tree – we started tossing it as high as it would go. By the time we were done – the tree was completely covered with tinsel with the lights sparkling through and reflecting off the silver – and we just barely able to get a peak of the ornaments underneath. Tinsel turned our tree into something magic – something the fairies could have placed in our living room.
Over the years, our mother tried different fads when it came to decorating for Christmas – we had a white flocked tree one year on which we could hang only lights – and those had to be done very, very carefully. This was probably the most boring tree we ever had – no ornaments – and no tinsel. Then we tried just having garland – but that didn’t have the same ‘sparkle’ effect that tinsel had – but you could see the ornaments really well – and all the blank spots on the tree where there weren’t enough branches or ornaments or lights. We tried all kinds of different ways – but we always came back to tinsel.
When I moved away from home, I would decorate my tree the same way – lights, ornaments and tinsel. However, my husband had different ideas of decorating – and they didn’t include tinsel. In fact, he told me one year that my tree looked like a ballistic missile – which really wasn’t in keeping with the season. Plus, he hated cleaning up that shiny stuff – and the dogs seemed to like to eat it – and he was pretty sure it wasn’t good for the dog – or our children. So I gave up on tinsel for a number of years. Our tree was always beautiful and they were all special but they always seemed to missing that magical something.
Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer – and I informed my sweet husband that I wanted tinsel on my tree – no – I NEEDED tinsel on my tree. Tinsel is what makes me smile when I turn off all of the lights in the house except the Christmas tree and I can watch the shimmering happiness flow from the tree. Pat suggested we get a silver aluminum tree (which are back in style) and just show a colored light on it – he apparently thought we were one of those ‘rich’ people I remember from my youth. I reminded Pat that tinsel only costs about $1 a box – silver tree was a couple of hundred dollars. Needless to say, tinsel won. So, we went hunting for tinsel (which is harder and harder to find these days) – and found the last four boxes at a store. I grinned all the way home with my prize clutched in my hands. The tree was standing quietly waiting for our arrival – all the lights were lit and the ornaments hung. We waited until the grandchildren had arrived and then proceeded to add a little magic.
As we gently laid the tinsel across the branches, the smiles began to grow on our faces. We laughed as the children grew tired of being so precise and started tossing the tinsel as high as it would go – and I remembered decorating with my sisters in the exact same way.
Four packages of tinsel, lots of laughter and tons of smiles later – I had my Christmas magic back in my life. It never really left – it just hadn’t been decorated properly for a long time. As we dimmed the lights and looked at our creation, we all smiled at the sparkling, dancing lights and the tree shimmered as if it was in a magical forest. Santa would have no problem finding us!
Lizzie and Liam, my grandchildren have informed their mother (my daughter) that they want – no – they NEED tinsel for their tree this year. I gave them each a brand new un-opened box.