Whether it is spreading the Word of God or finding the right Christmas tree for the family, certain needs have to be fulfilled. Register file photo.

The family Christmas tree became my task

By  Fr. Philip J. Kennedy, Catholic Register Special
  • December 22, 2015

Christmas practices are developed and celebrated in different ways in families, and certain tasks and jobs become traditions. So how did it happen that growing up in my large family I became the one to go out into the forest and get the annual Christmas tree?

It started when my father came home from work one day in December and grumbled about how much money was being asked for Christmas trees that year. He just left the topic hanging bleakly in the conversational air. Then I got an idea. The very next day, a Saturday, I went out to the nearby bush where we children used to explore and play in the summers, just a street away, and, carrying a little hatchet and a saw, headed out to get a tree from the nearby public forest. I would bring it home to let it be our Christmas tree.

I didn’t realize that more than one mother of the neighbourhood called my mother to ask whether that was her boy going into the bush with an axe and a saw. For my mother it remained a mystery for a while.

It was not long before I found myself in the deep woods in the heavy snow. But there I found the perfect tree. I had to clear the snow and hack and saw at the tree until I got it out. Then I dragged it home. When the others at home saw the tree, they were amazed that it was bigger and fuller than any they remembered. It certainly saved the cost of the trees being sold at the gas station lot in town. In a few days it would be brought into the house and festooned with ornaments.

That first year that I fetched a tree, when I was 11 years old, I hadn’t thought that everyone at home would be expecting me to do the same thing the next year. I had done such a good job, and saved money, that no one else thought of getting the tree. So I headed out again and found another Christmas tree. And so it happened, for several years after. It had become my job to get the tree, year after year, even though it became harder each year to find a good one.

This account of the little adventure of the annual search for the tree becomes a parable of how things become traditions, and an expectation in family life, and in a community.

The first Christians, the men and women who heard Jesus’ message and had been struck by the importance of the story of faith and the reward of the life to come, recognized the immense need to share that message with people who came after them. Each person of faith, then, saw the personal need to tell others of the way of salvation. Seeing the need that was not yet being fulfilled gave the first Christians the impetus to become true missionaries.

Thus, continued recognition of a need to be fulfilled became a tradition, part of the Sacred Tradition of the Church. Whether it is spreading God’s Word or getting a tree for the family, it is our personal task to undertake.

(Fr. Kennedy is president of Catholic Missions In Canada. This is reprinted from Catholic Missions In Canada magazine, Winter 2015.)

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