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The tree is up in all its simplistic splendor. For as long as I can remember Christmas never really felt real until the tree was up. There is magic at work while we put the ornaments on. Each one telling a story of a time long passed while simultaneously creating new memories of joy and togetherness.

However, the two years we almost didn’t have a tree hold their own sweet reminders for me of what Christmas is all about. Sacrifice and giving.

When I was in the 5th or 6th grade times were hard for our family. We couldn’t get a Christmas tree because my parents only car wasn’t working. I remember the sadness I felt looking at the empty spot where it should have gone. I didn’t understand the difficult times my parents were going through, I just knew it didn’t feel like Christmas. I must have been talking about how upset I was while at my best friend’s house and her mom offered to go buy us a tree. My parents didn’t let her but to my young mind I thought that was the nicest thing a person could over do.

I don’t remember the details of how my dad pulled it off, but shortly before the gift giving day he came home with the perfect tree. I can still picture it in my mind and the feeling of joy I had in my young heart was so big. He was a hero in that moment. He brought the magic of Christmas with a sacrifice I’m sure I’ll never understand.

Shortly after we were married, I was pregnant with our second child while Ryan went to school full-time and worked nights to provide for us. We had very little that year but we didn’t need much. My oldest was a little over a year and so his expectations were easily met. A tree would have been a huge extravagance we could not afford.

One evening after I had put my boy to bed, an unexpected knock came at our door. Tears came quickly to my eyes as I opened the door to find a huge tree siting in the doorway. But that was not all. We were given ornaments and presents as well. I felt an abundance of love and kindness that has stayed with me each year I bring out the decorations.

Because of one family’s thoughtfulness, we were given a desire to give back. To share that feeling of the true meaning of Christmas. The Christmas tree symbolizes to me the spirit of giving. Of thinking of others needs above my own. Of charity which is the pure love of Christ. The magic of the Christmas tree is so much more than my young heart could comprehend. For now I see it as the perfect reminder of Christ’s love for each one of us. He cared enough to send my family a tree so many years ago, and He cares enough today to show me how I can be more like Him.

“When we keep the spirit of Christmas, we keep the Spirit of Christ, for the Christmas spirit is the Christ Spirit. It will block out all the distractions around us which can diminish Christmas and swallow up its true meaning.” Thomas S Monson

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