Oh Christmas Tree

Oh Christmas Tree 2020

I’m sitting at my computer working on a self-imposed writing challenge when my phone chimes. It’s my mother texting me.

“Have you seen the 2020 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree?” 
“It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.” 
“I’ll look it up online.”

She must have thought I meant immediately. I didn’t. She waits a beat and then texts me again. 

“Did you see the owl?” 
“What owl?”
“There was an owl in the tree. Made it all the way to NYC.” 
“Wow! No, I didn’t look it up yet.”
“They say he’s doing well.”

No more texts come in. I return to my writing. But now I can’t focus. I keep thinking about my Mom’s excitement over the Christmas tree. I was distracted, and now I feel bad.

I google Rockefeller Christmas Tree. There it is. I scan the images and links. “Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Metaphor for 2020” one claims. 

I click on a link to a news article. The tree does, in fact, look quite scraggly. I scroll down and see a video link a paragraph or two down the page. I click on it. It shows the tree being relieved of its bindings to the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree.” When the branches spring out and fall, there are gaping holes and nearly bare branches. And I begin to cry. 

Yes, I begin to cry. The tears just come. Not a sobbing, wrenching boo-hoo cry. A silent cry born of raw emotion sparked by this tree. 

Rather than just sit with the emotion, I had to unpack it. What was going on? Where was this coming from? 

One word sounded in my head. Hope. 

I read in a New York Times article that Emily Brandwin, a podcaster, had this to say about the tree. 

“If it was a beautiful tree, that would have been surprising. 2020 is a trashcan. And it’s like, of course, we can’t have nice things.”

Her response to this tree is quite the opposite of mine. While her words are cynical and focus on the hardships, sadness, and devastation of 2020, what I see when I look at this tree is Hope. Hope and resilience. 

Not in a million years would anyone have ever thought that this scraggly looking tree would become the most iconic Christmas tree in the world. That it would stand in the middle of Rockefeller Center bedecked with lights and ornaments and serve as a beacon of light in a very dark time. 

Yes, as some have pointed out, it looks like the tree gave itself a pandemic haircut. Yes, it looks like it has really gone through it, as have we. But there it stands. Maybe a little sparse. Maybe a little crooked. Maybe a little worse for wear. But it made it. It made it across 200 miles from Oneonta, NY to NYC. And against all odds, here it stands. 

I adore this tree. It made the ultimate sacrifice to stand in Rockefeller Center. And rather than seeing it as a symbol of all that has gone wrong in the world this year, I see it as a shining light, reminding us of our strength, our compassion, and our determination. Encouraging us to count our blessings, for no matter how small or insignificant they may seem, they are the seeds of hope. Hope for today. Hope for tomorrow. 

This tree is, indeed, the perfect metaphor for 2020.

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