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"Much they saw, and far they went, and many homes they visited, but always with a happy end. The Spirit stood beside sick beds, and they were cheerful; on foreign lands, and they were close at home; by struggling men, and they were patient in their greater hope; by poverty, and it was rich. In alms-house, hospital, and jail, in misery's every refuge, where vain man in his little brief authority had not made fast the door and barred the Spirit out, he left his blessing, and taught Scrooge his precepts."
-A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I have found over the years that there is nothing quite as relaxing as turning off the lights, pulling up a chair and just enjoying looking at the Christmas tree. Even though there would have been some hubbub surrounding actually getting the tree up and decorated and then again making sure that all the lights were working and that no lights had blown, the finished decorated tree causes much joy.

Trying to pinpoint the reason why is easy. I think it is because it is the first signal (alongside the Late Late Toy Show of course) that Christmas is well and truly on the way. Amidst the rush to get presents and being being a peak retail shopping time there is always the tree. Be it at the corner at Grafton Street near the St Stephen's Green shopping centre, the lights in the shape of a Christmas tree with the crib at the base of the tree on O' Connell Street or the Christmas tree located in any town and some villages in Ireland. The tree remains the most unifying calming aspect of the Christmas season. There is a stillness that surrounds the tree. It demands that we stand and take stock of things even if things are hectic around us.

Retail centres put up the trees and decorations once Halloween is over. Even now some of the time a few days beforehand. But for households, it is traditional to put up the tree on the eighth of December. This is also the time that Roman Catholics in particular celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This feast in particular is a holy day of obligation. In Ireland too, it was traditionally the day that people would come up to the city to do the Christmas shopping. This particular tradition itself originated from a market which would traditionally take place on the 8th of December when farmers would sell their produce and in turn stock up for the Christmas by using the proceeds of the sales. The particular tradition of the Christmas market has unfortunately has died out over the years but in it’s wake it has become a time that the country people still make their way up to Dublin and go Christmas shopping.

One tradition that has endured throughout is the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree itself first appeared in the 1830s but only became really popular in 1841 when Prince Albert set up the Christmas tree in Windsor in the UK. The tradition of the tree itself can be traced back itself to Prince Albert's Germanic background and the Tannenbaum tradition. Much like what Prince Albert himself would have been used to in his own homeland. Along with some edible treats as decorations on the tree as well. In those early Victorian days, the tree itself was decorated with candles to represent stars.

Perhaps that's what makes the tree itself such an enduring calming influence. If you think of it, the fact that the candles on the tree represent the Indeed, over the years, the candles on the tree have been replaced by small lights which do seem at times to mirror the stars in the sky more than their candles what had preceded. Which in itself is calming amidst the hubbub of the season.

Christmas season itself is also a time for reflection, but it's a time also to look forward. Whatever has happened during the year however bad or good, this is the time that reflection is best done. So during the time that we have free over Christmas, what better way to relax in silence than to spend some time in the room that the tree is in and reflecting on what has happened and what is in front of us.

Breath in.
Breath out.

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