When I was a little girl, my family would decorate our Christmas tree a few weeks prior to the holiday, just like millions of other families around the world. But my mother would always have a second, somewhat smaller tree that she put in the family room on the fireplace hearth. This tree was her Southwestern Christmas tree, and she decorated it with a beautiful collection of Native American ornaments that she had collected on our many trips to parts of the Southwest. The ornaments were typically hand-crafted, made of wood, pottery, glass, and other simple materials. We always thought it was stunning, standing next to the stone fireplace and highlighted by many of the pieces of pottery she had on the family room shelves.
Last year, when I retired from teaching and decided to reopen my parents Dancing Rabbit Gallery as my own, I decided that I needed to have a Southwestern Christmas tree in my gallery. So when my husband and I went searching for a family Christmas tree to place in the front dining room, we also kept our eyes out for the perfect tree for my gallery. And we found one that was amazing.
Many people might overlook a tree like this on the Christmas tree lot, as it wasn’t perfectly straight. But it had beautiful branches, was shaped in the perfect pyramid pattern, and seemed to call out to me to take it home. So we did.
Later that day, I showed my mom’s collection of ornaments to my husband, and explained the story of decorating a special Southwest Christmas tree each year, and how I had added to her ornament collection over the years, but rarely had the ability to put up a separate Southwestern Christmas tree. Each ornament has a story, like the small pottery ladle or the carved wooden eagle. Each ornament has a special tie to a part of the American Southwest that my parents loved so much. And as I have become wholly immersed in launching this new Dancing Rabbit Gallery, I learn more and more about the culture and the people, and my own love for the American Southwest grows and deepens.
Next week, my husband and I will embark on another search for our family Christmas tree, but we will also be looking for a second tree – the perfect Southwestern Christmas tree that we can decorate while we reminisce. Family traditions are what bind us from generation to generation, and the holiday traditions can be among the strongest ones. I miss my parents, but with this tree, they are never really gone. They stay tucked away in that special part of my heart.