Travis Black - December 2018





Before my daughter-in-law Amy celebrated Christmas with my family, the whole concept was entirely new to her. Her parents didn’t celebrate the holiday because they’re from China, so she never had a chance to experience what it was like. The first time she observed the holiday with us was jaw-dropping for her. She was like a little kid in a candy store. During this time of year, local craftspeople head up to Apple Hill and hold a large craft fair, allowing people to browse their goods. Many of themmake Christmas decorations that you can hang on the tree or put on your mantle. There’s one booth where a craftsman puts the date on his beautiful Christmas ornaments, and my family makes sure to visit his booth each year to get a new one. When I brought Amy to this fair for the first time, I bought her a special Christmas ornament that said “Amy’s First Christmas” on it, which she still has today. Amy was also enthusiastic about getting her very first Christmas tree. Every year, my family goes out to the Christmas tree farm and cuts down our very own tree. Amy was thrilled to pick out a tree for her and my son’s place. She ran around to look at each one before finding the perfect tree. Amy wanted to cut it down by herself, but she understandably needed a bit of help. So we all pitched in and cut the lovely tree down and hauled it back to their car. Once they arrived home, Amy was really excited to decorate her Christmas tree for the first time ever. That initial Christmas for her was memorable for all of us. Amy had such an exciting time, and the rest of us enjoyed seeing the traditions through a fresh set of eyes.

Years ago when my son was still pretty young, we went out and cut down a huge, monster Christmas tree for our home. Our living room had a ceiling that was around 30 feet high, and my son wanted to fill that space as much as possible. When we were out looking for a tree that year, he spotted the gigantic pine and declared that it was the one for us. We had quite a time chopping it down and then had to wrestle it onto the truck. Once we got it home, we could hardly fit it through the door, but once we got it through and upright, it looked amazing. “We had a few weeks to enjoy the tree, and then came the hard part — getting it back out of the house.” We decorated it as a family, and the pine was surprisingly pleasant given how large it was. We had a few weeks to enjoy the tree, and then came the hard part — getting it back out of the house. After Christmas, the needles dried up and the branches became stiff and hard. Try as we might, we couldn’t fit the thing back through the door. We ended up having to cut it up in the living room and take it out in pieces, making a mess of branches and dry needles in the process. It was a nightmare! But even with all the work and horrible mess, I couldn’t imagine Christmas with a store-bought tree. Besides engaging in all of the usual Christmas traditions, my son and I participated in something very similar to the Angel Tree

program every year for a long time. Our church gave out the names of families or people in need who were going through a hard time. My son, who was eight at the time, would play Secret Santa to these families. We’d go to church, find the family whose name was given out, and see what they might need. My son had so much fun going out and picking Christmas presents for these people, bringing them home, and wrapping them up. He always wanted to be involved with the process as much as possible. It was a great teaching moment. My son even came up with an idea to put all the presents into an enormous box and take it to their house on Christmas Eve. We would go over as a family in our SUV, and my son and I would carry the box and lay it on the porch. My son would knock, and then we’d head back to the truck and watch. He got so much joy out of watching these people open their Christmas gifts, and it would be fulfilling to see them the following week in church wearing their brand- new clothes. Whether this year is your first Christmas celebration or your one-hundredth, I encourage you to find a way to give to someone in need. A small act of kindness can truly put the holiday into perspective.

Merry Christmas,

-Travis Black

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