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Lighten Up

Ever since I was little, I have made Christmas tree ornaments. My best kindergarten efforts were paper origami snowflakes, and my worst ornaments involved attempts at knitting. Of all my ornaments, the cross-stitched ones are the best.

The other day, when I began stitching the small Christmas trees at the bottom of Friends Are Christmas Treasures in the Just CrossStitch Christmas Ornaments 2016 issue, I had an existential moment -- not philosophically existential, but a question about the existence of Christmas trees and why we bring them into our houses and cover them with bling.

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Needing a break from my stitching marathon, I popped in my google question, "Why do we have Christmas trees?" I found a wealth of information from www.history.com. Here are some facts to ponder while stitching one of the gorgeous designs in the ornaments issue chapter, "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

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Long ago, when winter days shortened, our ancestors (the really ancient ones from way, way back) thought that the sun was sick. When the sun perked up after the solstice (usually Dec. 21 or 22), people celebrated the lengthening of daytime and looked at evergreen trees as a sign that the greenery on other trees and plants would appear in the spring and summer.

Ancient civilizations, including Egypt and Rome, decorated with evergreen boughs in the wintertime.

Fast-forward to 16th-century Germany. Christians began bringing evergreen trees into their homes, and in particularly harsh winters when they needed the wood for fireplaces, they decorated with evergreen boughs.

The story goes that Martin Luther, the 16th-century cleric whose nailing of 95 theses to a church door set off the Protestant Reformation, was inspired to put candles on the evergreen tree after seeing stars twinkling through the trees when he was on a walk.

Candles? Really? Candles on a tree in the house? How dangerous is that!

Candles gave way to electric lights, thanks to Thomas Edison's creative assistants, and now we have laser projectors to beam lights indoors and outdoors. Note to self: Drive Norton crazy with an indoor laser show.

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Norton is transfixed by the red laser dot lower right. Imagine if this kitten had a houseful of Christmas laser lights to try to capture!

When it comes to Christmas decorating, the stars of the show are the ornaments, not the lights. So if you haven't yet started stitching your ornaments, gather up some linen and floss. Below are a few quick stitches to get you started:

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