It doesn’t mean anything,” I thought as I looked at our artificial Christmas tree. Sure, my children had crafted beautiful decorations and loved to rearrange the ornaments. However, the tree itself seemed so distant from Christmas. Its lights sparkled and the tinsel hung over the boughs, but it didn’t hold any significant meaning. There wasn’t a spectacular story to our tree other than I purchased it on sale one January and it hibernates in our basement for 11 months of the year.
Then I received a Christmas card that featured a tree that intrigued me. It contained the painting of Jack E. Dawson’s “Passion Tree,” that challenged me to find a unique hidden picture within the painting. The card remained on my desk for a few days and then I actually began to study the painting. “Here it is!” I excitedly told my husband. “It’s exactly what I was searching for – a Christmas tree with meaning!”
I studied the symbols and illustrations hidden in the decorations. One ornament had a picture of light and darkness representing creation. Another ornament highlighted the manger and the fulfilment of years of prophesies. Starting from the bottom of the tree and following the red garland that connected them to the top, there were 12 Old Testament and 12 New Testament events depicted within the 24 ornaments. The 33 candles on the tree represented each year that Jesus spent on earth. The red ornaments down the centre and horizontally formed a cross. There was also symbolism in the images behind the tree and snow-covered landscape. This beautiful painting summarized the events surrounding the Christ Child.
The painting was magnificent, but I wasn’t sure how to use it to breathe life into my own fake needles. The artwork had the potential of being a great teaching tool for my preschoolers; I just had to find a way to transform my own living room Christmas tree into a Passion Tree.
We soon got out scissors, glue, string, red paper and pencil crayons. I obtained a description of each ornament on the tree from the artist’s website and together, our family created the 24 ornaments as illustrated on the card.
This year we’ll use the painting as an advent calendar. Daily in December we’ll add a decoration, beginning at the bottom of the tree and following the red rope to the top star. Hopefully, by Christmas Day, we’ll have our own tree that resembles the Passion Tree. Finally, a Christmas tree with meaning.
– Sheila Braun writes from Landmark, Manitoba