By Gabrielle Blair
January 31, 2018
Hiking up the mountain on the Tepalo Waterfall route, one bright early December morning, three young Mexicans passed me on their way down. They were carrying a large, leafless branch that they had hacked off a dead tree. This was to be their Christmas tree.
Ours was a beautiful tree, ten foot tall, nearly touching the ceiling, with pine scent that faded as the needles dried. Reluctant to accept that Christmas was long gone, I delayed taking it down as long as possible. I needed a ladder to reach the painted, wooden angel, tied with a gold ribbon to its top. Gently I wrapped each decoration in tissue to be cocooned in a big box until next Christmas. The memory of where each one came from links them to me in a special way. Through years of travel, the collection has grown, with many hand-crafted ones, now from Mexico.
I love the task of hanging our decorations with small wire hooks: tiny corn-husk angels; stars with many points, a steepled church and nativity scene, all woven from straw; two-dimensional, brightly painted wise men, cut out of tin; a plump, pink, paper-mache heart; shiny, gold and silver balls; ruby-red plastic apples; gaudy, little, lacy Christmas trees sprinkled with shocking-pink, purple, red and gold sparkles and finally, yards and yards of silver tinsel, which, when wound around the Tree, bind all these things together.
My favorites are a set of glass figurines hung to reflect the strings of flickering amber lights: three angels holding golden filigree stars in outstretched arms; a rocking horse with red neck-tie, and a group of tinkling bells that stack like a Russian matryoshka doll.
I feel sad to see that empty space where the Tree has stood, its sweet-smelling branches and sparkling ornaments illuminating our home for a short month. Now I must wait these long months to repeat the loved ritual of decorating the Tree, a symbol of the bounty and riches of Christmas time. Perhaps next year I’ll try the Mexican version, a simple dry branch with lots of twigs on which to hang our lights and ornaments.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com