Last night, I assembled my Christmas tree. As I child, that phrase would have sounded sacrilegious to me. I grew up in a family where we always had a real tree. Both sets of grandparents had real trees. Everyone that I knew had a real tree. Just the idea of a fake tree made me so sad.
Then, in high school, I went to Venezuela as an exchange student. I was there for a year, not allowed to return home at any point, and so I celebrated Christmas with my Venezuelan family and learned their customs. Luckily for me, one of their traditions was to have a Christmas tree, and it made me feel a little more at home. Since there are not many pine trees in Venezuela the tree was a fake one. I appreciated it nonetheless. The following pictures are pictures of pictures, so I apologize for the poor quality. Here is Papá beginning to assemble the tree with Virggi and María Eugenia behind him.
Mamá, Eugenio and Virggi starting to decorate the tree.
Eugenio and I making paper snowflakes. This was not one of their customs rather something that I taught them. My family in the States always made paper snowflakes to decorate the house at Christmas.
Abuelo and María Eugenia in front of the pesebre. The pesebre or nativity scene is a tradition in the Andes Mountain region of Venezuela where I lived. This is a small one compared to many that I saw. Some of them fill entire rooms and have running water.
While I lived in the Chicago area, it made more sense for me to have a fake Christmas tree since I would return to New York for the holiday. A real tree would have died in the two weeks I was away, and I would have been sad not to have any tree at all. So, I bought a fake one, and now that I have it I see no sense in buying a real tree every year. This is the tree that I use. Besides, it makes me think of my Venezuelan family every time I put it up.
This year I will be celebrating Christmas with them again. My sister Virggi, the little girl in the pictures, is now 31 and getting married on December 21, and I am so glad to have the opportunity to share that special day with her and the rest of the family.