"Measure the Abundance"
It was mid-December when Lóránt
found Victor in the marketplace and said,
"I have something for you, if you want it."
Victor raised his eyebrows and replied,
"Very well, let us go see this something."
In Lóránt's wagon lay a handsome silver fir
that had to reach at least fifteen feet, Victor thought
as he tried to measure the abundance by eye.
"I found it blown over in the forest this morning,"
said the woodcutter. "I hate the thought of trimming it
down to fit inside someone's cottage. Your great hall
is the only place that it could go besides the church,
and Kálmán already has a tree up there."
"We hardly ever use the great hall," Victor murmured.
"It's such a big barn of a space -- the side room suits
our needs better for a living room, though I think
it was originally meant as a smoking room or a den."
"It's almost Christmas," said Lóránt. "Imagine
what fun we could have, trying to find a Yule Log
big enough it would do justice to that hearth."
The hearth in question formed the focal point
of the far end, across from the double doors at
the entrance, and like the main kitchen hearth
it was big enough for someone to stand in.
Victor thought about the previous Christmas,
when they had a much smaller tree and far fewer friends,
and Igor had spent most of Christmas Day huddled
in bed because his back hurt so much.
That memory could do with improvement.
"All right, bring it on up to the castle,"
Victor said, waving at the tree.
So Lóránt set up the tree, and then
left Victor and Igor to decorate it
with silver tinsel and candle clips,
silk ribbons and garlands of lace.
They were not expecting other people
to trickle uphill with decorations in hand.
Dénes and Dorottya arrived first,
bearing birds molded of tin, some silver
and others painted brilliant red.
"Don't you need these for your own tree?"
Victor asked, although he couldn't resist
tracing a finger over one bird in a delicate nest.
"We kept some at home too," said Dénes.
"We wanted to see how these look on your tree."
Anne brought gingerbread men and
fabric sachets of sugar-coated nuts.
"Those will never make it to Christmas,"
Victor pointed out, shaking his head.
"I'll make more," she promised.
Katalin and Ilona offered balls of foil, with
straight quills or cones of tin or brass.
Victor gave up trying to dissuade people.
Bogdana and Csilla brought snowflakes
made from glass and silver beads, along with
loose beads and spools of colored thread
for the children to string into simple wreaths.
Imre showed up with several tin lanterns shaped like
intricately folded stars, and delicate discs with patterns
punched into them. When the children grew bored of
beading wreaths, he taught them how to punch tin
instead, using a hammer and nails on old jar lids.
Vladimir brought a magnificent angel fashioned
from a porcelain doll, with wings and skirt
of brass foil, for the top of the tree.
"This is exquisite," Igor said, and climbed
a ladder to put her where she belonged.
Victor looked around the room at all the people --
children making ornaments under watchful eyes,
couples sharing chairs and giggling, even Adam
gnawing on the head of a gingerbread man.
Of all the ways they had to measure
the abundance that now filled their lives,
this was surely the most precious.
The candlelight glimmered on ornaments
of brass and tin and glass, colorful cloth,
twists of silk ribbon and linen lace.
"That is the most beautiful Christbaum
I have ever seen," Victor said quietly.
"Yes," said Igor, "it is."
* * *
"Don't measure the height of your christmas tree. Measure the abundance of the love present in your heart!"
Different cultures prefer different types of Christmas tree, or Christbaum as they used to be called. Romania favors the European silver fir. Think carefully about what you want when choosing a Christmas tree.
Historic decorations have included lace, ribbon, tin, food items, and lit candles. Many of them were homemade, and crafting was an important holiday tradition. Germany has long produced ornaments, with tin preceding blown glass. Romanian festivities spread over 19 days.
Lace and ribbon decorate trees in many ways. Long strips of linen lace make good garlands. Ribbon may be used whole in a similar way, or short scraps can be tied into bows.
Candles are safest inside lanterns. Historically, candles were fastened to the Christmas tree with special clips, which you can still buy today. Sometimes another ornament dangled from the bottom of the clip.
Tinsel or "icicles" was originally made from silver, then aluminum, and now usually plastic. It drapes over the whole tree to create a shimmery curtain. Silver tinsel originated in Germany around 1610. You can make many decorations from tinsel icicles or garlands. Tinsel can be risky, but so can almost everything else on a Christmas tree, including the tree itself as a climbing/falling hazard. Small children and pets require supervision around any holiday decorations. Cats and Christmas trees never mix well. For maximum safety, consider a tree made of wall decals or projected light.
Tin birds come in painted or silvery versions, either of which may be three-dimensional or flat, often embossed with designs.
Edible ornaments of assorted types are popular. Cloth sachets may be filled with any non-sticky treat such as candied nuts. Gingerbread cookies may be baked, decorated, and hung on the tree. Traditions vary as to whether these may be eaten immediately or are to be saved for Christmas Day or Boxing Day. Victor clearly assumes -- and Anne concurs -- that people will begin devouring the edible ornaments immediately.
Balls of foil may have straight or cone-shaped parts fastened together at the center to make a sphere. The ones with straight quills are relatively easy to make. Historically these were made of tin, brass, aluminum, copper, etc. but modern ones are usually made from plastic foil.
Beaded ornaments include such things as snowflakes and wreaths. Learn how to bead a snowflake or bead a wreath. Start children on easy patterns, and when they master those, let them move up to more challenging crafts.
Punched tin ornaments can likewise be elaborate or simple. The same basic instructions apply to either; just the complexity of the pattern varies.
Angel toppers began as religious decorations but not everyone still thinks of them that way. Early ones were made with porcelain, fabric, metal, and sometimes feathers. Most contemporary ones are made of plastic and other synthetics, but you can still find more traditional ones if you search -- and of course, many modern angels are wired to light up.
Family holidays offer important opportunities to bond through traditions. There are tips to reduce stress, particularly for special needs families. You can create your own holiday traditions or choose from established ones. Given its location, this village already has a collage of Romanian, Hungarian, German, and other central European customs plus what Victor and Igor bring from farther west.