About four years ago, I started a new holiday tradition in our family that allows us to remember loved ones who have passed, and allows my children to learn about relatives who they may have never met. Every Christmas I put up what I call our “Angel Tree.”
I am not sure WHERE I got the idea for this, but the thought just popped into my head: I wanted an angel tree! My thought behind it was that I would hang photos of passed loved ones on the tree and then as guests (grandparents, aunts, uncles, close friends, etc.) arrive to our home on Christmas Day (we usually host) my children would present them with an ornament that has the guest’s written name on it. Together they would then go over to the tree and hang it anywhere on the tree that they would like. This would give our guests an opportunity to reflect on those who have passed and give them a chance to share memories with my children, if they so choose.
I loved the idea of this, but I needed to whip up a tree and its trimmings with only a few weeks to go before Christmas that year. I was determined that I wanted the tree to be gold. I discovered at that time that gold trees were hard to come by and cost a pretty penny. I decided to peruse local garage sale sites and I came across an inexpensive artificial tree with white branches that someone was selling. I decided to purchase it and I intended to spray paint it gold!
I never like driving to places where I have never been before. The tree was located over a half hour away, which seemed like an eternity getting there. I remember asking for “help” from my guides on the way there. Asking for assistance to find where I needed to go. Assistance in being safe. Assistance in liking the tree once I got all of the way there, etc.
Well, long story short, the tree was what I was looking for and in good enough shape, so I purchased it from the seller. On the way home, I had to turn against heavy traffic which I don’t like to do, so I ended up making a right turn, and then a U-turn, to get in the direction I needed to be to head home. Before making the U-turn, I saw a state mileage sign for a major highway that if you took it all of the way, would take you right to my now deceased grandparents’ house. It made me smile. Then on the way home, I kept seeing doves along the power lines on my side of the road. It felt as if they were actually watching me drive past them. I relate doves to symbols from Spirit and I felt comforted and even more relaxed as if some of my past relatives were watching me, or guiding me home from getting the tree.
So now, how did I design my Angel Tree? Well, I first took the white tree to my back yard, laid a tarp down and spray painted the heck out of it with gold spray paint. It was a challenge to find a nice day to do this, as temperatures in the Midwest during this time of year are generally too cold for painting anything outdoors. It took many coats and to this day, it could probably use a few more, but it turned into gilded gold tree.
I then purchased some small 2×3 and 3×3 sized photo frames. I added photos to the frames of loved ones who have passed – some frames with copies of photos, other with photo copies and in cases when I didn’t have a photo, I just printed the person’s name in fancy font on nicer paper and slipped them into the frames. I then attached ribbon to frames so that they could be hung.
The first year that we put the tree out, I used some gold and ivory ornaments and pearl garland strands that I already had laying around. As the years have gone by, I’ve added more ribbons and crystals to really make the tree a statement tree. I have also collected and even made some ornaments that either have an angelic theme to them, or have a symbolic meaning to me like doves, dragonflies and angel wings. We use the same ornaments year-to-year that have our guests’ names on them. We keep them in a gold basket under the tree until they arrive. Every year when I put the tree up, I feel my “angels” with me. I usually have some odd occurrence happen as well, like a light bulb flickering or going out in the room from across the tree. A reminder that they always with me.