Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Wonder of Christmas Trees

Our Christmas Tree, December 2022.

I have always been enthralled by Christmas trees, from the time I was a young child up to last evening when I took this picture after spending time with all our other lights out, listening to Christmas music with my wife. I loved the fragile glass ornaments with beautiful Christmas scenes, or bells, or even a couple birds sheltering in the branches, the “icicles” we used to hang on the branches, the garlands, the lights, and in our family, the star that always topped our tree. We used to have one you could insert the last light on the string into. The star would really shine! The bulbs were the C7 type, big by today’s standards, and hot. We used to put colored reflectors behind each bulb, creating a number of smaller stars of different colors as well as protecting the branches from the heat of the bulb.

We used to love seeing the trees of others. Sometimes we’d go down to the tree lighting events at Central Square. People decorated in so many different ways. Remember those aluminum Christmas trees illuminated with color wheels? Most of us still had natural trees back then but more and more “artificial” trees became popular. Over the years, they’ve gotten more realistic, and many already have lights on them. But the house just smelled so wonderful with those natural trees in a way artificial scents can’t duplicate.

As I’ve thought about trees, three aspects capture for me something of the wonder and meaning of Christmas trees:

Greenery. The green of the trees remind me of life coming amid the bleakness of winter, perhaps amid the bleakness of the human condition at times. Where other plants die and other trees drop their leaves, our Christmas trees are evergreen. It reminds me of the hope that life will win out.

Beauty. The beauty of our trees stands out from the faded landscapes of winter. The fragility of a beautiful ornaments remind us that beauty is something to be both cherished and protected. Our own creativity in decorating our trees reminds us of all the opportunity we have to bring beauty into our homes and yards and neighborhoods, our workplaces and communities. This beauty renews our hope that beauty will prevail in the world.

Light. Our lights and stars bring to mind the one we call “the light of the world,” whose coming was marked by a brilliant star in the night skies. Light shines in darkness and drives it out. Lights call to mind the Chinese saying, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” They inspire me to be a light-bringer in the world.

The holidays hold various meanings for us. Mine may not be yours. Whatever the case may be, I want you to know my sincere gratitude that you have followed these articles for the past year. And I wish you the happiest of holidays!

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

8 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Wonder of Christmas Trees

  1. Beautiful Bob. Brings back so many memories. I forgot all about those big, hot bulbs! Our tree was always short and fat but the tinsel was always perfectly placed.
    Merry Christmas!

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  2. I enjoy all of your columns, but mostly the Youngstown ones! I grew up on the upper West Side and Hubby on the Lower West side and worked at Paul’s station. My parents always had an Angel on top of the tree so that’s what we have. All of the tree decorations you mentioned are etched in my mind. Right now, we’ve had to go to an artificial tree and I hate it! When we were young, we went and cut down 2 trees; one for us and the other for my parents. Loved that, too! Thank you for all the wonderful information and memories you stir in me! Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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  3. Great memories helping Dad while listening to Christmas music! He always let us be creative and decorate the way we wanted. Never saying “No” not like that! Just the smell of food in the house to go along with the fresh scent of the tree. Old fashion lights, big bulbs, and my favorite. Dollar Bank Santa’s on a four inch card put on with a string. Every year, forty of them😂😂😂😂😂😂

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