Community Around Our Christmas Tree
By Elizabeth (Liz) Albuquerque, mother, advocate, SRV leader
According to Dan Wilkins, a community that excludes even one of its members is no community at all. And a community is important to everyone: It fulfills our need to belong, gives us a sense of comfort and security, and enhances our wellbeing and quality of life. This is especially significant for those who are marginalized, devalued, and find themselves in the lower rungs of the social ladder in society. This is a story of how a simple tradition brings people together to form a community.
Long before Christianity began to include the Christmas Tree as a symbol, trees that stayed green all year long carried a special meaning for people. A green, thriving tree in the dead of winter reminded people of hope and new life.
The Norwegian ritual known as “circling the Christmas tree” followed, a tradition where everyone joined hands to form a ring around the tree and then they walked around it singing Carols.
Across the world, Christmas trees bring people together regardless of income, faith or political persuasion and they give the individual a sense of community, belonging, peace and good cheer.
In our community, where we have been lucky to have lived for the last couple of decades, our tree brings the neighborhood together in so many meaningful ways. Every year, all the children come over to help decorate the tree. From making decorations around our dining table to dressing up the tree, the youngsters fill our home with laughter, singing, and truly imaginative and innovative ways of putting up the ornaments. Groups of carolers from our locality get together to sing, eat, and chitchat around our tree through the Christmas season… truly the good things of life!
Indeed, the inclusion of any number of children and young adults with varied abilities in our neighborhood, including my own daughter, has enriched this whole-community experience in many ways. At the most direct level, we have learned together that in order to be whole, our community needs to make space around the tree, our own symbol of life and possibility. Indeed, the whole world works better when there is room for everyone around the tree.