In a town as small as I live in, things just magically happen. There are few meetings about how to maintain our shared community here. All without a decree or plan, the trees draping the bandstand and the veterans memorial get their hair cuts each spring, the 18th century watering trough sprouts flowers each summer, the stone walls get de-cluttered in the fall and at Christmas time the doors of the town buildings come to life with traditional winter greens.
When I first arrived in town wanting to help with the Christmas-time beautification endeavors, no one could tell me for sure how it all happened; it just did – no questions asked. Coming from a place that everything happened by law and volunteerism had to acquire an official stamp of approval, I could not understand. But slowly in time this town taught me the ways of silent tradition; of looking for need, being bold enough to fill the gap and of giving without getting a “receipt” for it. And so, in Canterbury, those winter evergreens acquired yet another symbolism for me; that being, the silent
tradition of giving solely for the joy of the community.
It happened by accident that I learned of the person behind the greens. After many years of quilting and casual conversation each week with my friend Pam, one year she mentioned….”cutting the greens… wiring boughs…” and so I put it together that SHE had been doing the door boughs all these many years! And so each year she continues, taking it upon herself to be the keeper of the doors, the keeper of that silent tradition of giving.
I leave you with a thought this season; what can we each do in this silent tradition of giving without notice, of giving when it isn’t that “Tuesday”, when it isn’t a tax write off or we are prompted by a news story or mailer?…of giving when we see a need either for the joy of community or the solace of an individual, continuing the tradition of “evergreen” throughout the year?
The symbolism of evergreens: The tradition of decorating with evergreen boughs goes back to ancient times. Early Egyptians took greens inside at winter solstice to symbolize life’s triumph over death and early Romans also used them at winter solstice in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture. In the middle ages Germans and Scandinavians took evergreens inside their home to show their hope of the forthcoming spring. From these early traditions come our own modern-day use of evergreens at winter solstice and Christmas to symbolize rebirth and hope.
MAKE YOUR OWN EVERGREEN SWAG – tools necessary; garden clippers, floral wire (Michael’s Crafts), scissors for ribbon, measuring tape for sizing, red identification tape to mark where your put the hanger in the back, wire snippers…
….festive beverages…….ribbons……pre-bought greens or a guy that can cut them for you. Pam’s husband Gordon trims up their woods each year for Pam to have loads of greens for her swags.
- Determine the length of the swag you want. Using the measuring tape cut one or two branches to that length; lay them flat on a surface with cut ends touching side by side. Sip some festive beverage.
- Cut two or three more branches slightly shorter that the first branches. Lay them on top of the larger ones in the same way. Sip some festive beverage.
- Cut several branches even shorter than the last laying them on top to complete the bundle. Sip some festive beverage.
- Snip an 18″ length of floral wire and wrap the cut ends of the branches together in this way – wrap the wire several times around the last layer, then continuing wrapping around the middle layer finally wrapping around the bottom layer and all around the bundle. Twist the ends together to secure. NOTE: If you try to only wrap the outside of the bundle then eventually the inner branches will fall out as they dehydrate.
- Sip some festive beverage. Phew. You are almost done.
- Snip another 18″ piece of wire, double it up then twist it around the bundle fashioning a loop at the back for hanging. Tie a small piece of red marker tape around the loop so you don’t lose it.
- Attach a bow by wiring it into the top just above the loop. Trim the ends of it so it is tidy and drapes 1/2 way down the swag.
- Finish your festive beverage. Wasn’t that fun?!!
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3 thoughts on “The Keepers of Silent Tradition”
Ahhh, Jane, what a *beautiful* paean to the true spirit of giving! Lovely, lovely, lovely…wishing you ALL the blessings of the season. Xoxox, l
Jane, I am sharing this with all of my friends and co-workers – a testament to what being a part of the community really means and what I am sure our founding fathers intended for us to carry out in terms of civic responsibility – no fanfare, no receipt, no write-off – thanks for sharing – I can’t wait to see it in person! xoxoxoxo