Reflections by the Sea: Christmas trees

Published 9:44 am Wednesday, December 22, 2021

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By Betsy Ore Glass

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

I’ve seen many Christmas trees over the years. And I love them all.  Ours has morphed into a collection of memories: ornaments crafted by kids and grandkids, gifts from friends and those that we picked up on trips. And each year I add a few too.

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The first Christmas tree I ever remember was at my grandmother’s house. I was probably 4 or 5 years old. Her blustery cold cottage at the beach, with its wraparound porch, was the setting for my first memory of Christmas. She lived next to the woods where there was an abundance of scrub oaks, cedar trees, holly and honeysuckle vines. After a walk through the woods, the chosen tree was cut down and brought into the little living room. There was such excitement when it came time to decorate and I was included! The tree was tall and almost touched the ceiling and was nailed into a wooden stand. Grandmother lit the fireplace (it didn’t draft well and the room seemed to be somewhat smoky) and it took the chill out of the air. The fireplace has its own story. Because the soot got on the bricks above the poorly drafted fireplace opening, my grandmother took out her brush and paint can and painted over the bricks in bright red, leaving the white mortar lines. She was known for dressing up vases with a rim of gold paint, or a figurine with more gold. I remember thinking even then that the fireplace didn’t look good! But the bricks were red and she was happy! The old string of lights that had large colored bulbs was woven in and out of the branches of our precious cedar tree. Old cherished glass ornaments were hung up high so little ones like me couldn’t get to them. My job was to put candy canes on the tree and if I was good, I could keep one for myself. I learned then from watching my grandmother and my parents that perfection was not the thing to strive for at Christmas.Yes, always do a good job. In fact, do you best. But to aim for perfection would have robbed us of fun, pleasant memories and a happy time of laughter. I look back and I am glad that the old beach cottage, now long gone, represented comfort, love, spontaneity, laughter and family. And yes, Christmas. Many Christmases since then and now, but those sweet early memories will reside in my heart forever.

I admit to liking the joy of hospitality and preparations leading to Christmas. But then I’ll catch myself as I realize I am striving for perfection at times. But when Christmas Day arrives and paper and ribbon is scattered all around, family is nibbling on sweets too close to dinner and I realize we are together and happy and that God has blessed us.

This year may be very different for many people. Keeping distance, longing for loved ones that have passed. Praying hard that things will come through with a job, or that business will pick up again. But the blessings are still there, perhaps in different ways. We may have to look harder for them this year. The spirit of Christmas is about love shared, love received and being grateful to God for the gift of His Son. Maybe we can ask God to show us ways we can promote love and joy among us this Christmas to give Him honor and glory.

Betsy Ore Glass has long-standing ties to the Outer Banks. From Virginia Beach, her family bought a vacation cottage in the 60s and her love of the area began. Later in the 90s, Betsy and her husband bought a weekend cottage and introduced the area to their children. Then Betsy’s parents retired to KDH where the family gathered often. Reach her at or read additional Reflections at