Tag, You’re It

With fresh snow on the ground and with temperature of 14º F (-10º C) that we trekked down to the nearby tree farm. It’s that time of year again to choose a Christmas tree.

From our previous experiences, it usually takes us several minutes (though it feel like hours) to go up and down the line after line of trees, before we could pick the “perfect” tree.

Not this time.

On the first line of trees that we approached, we already made our choice. We did it in less than a minute! It is a record!

Here’s a close up photo of our Christmas tree with my wife tagging it with our name.

We’ll be coming back in two weeks to have this tree cut and bundled and for us to bring it home.

Since we did it so quickly, there was plenty of time for me to eat popcorn and sip hot chocolate inside the tree farm’s store. 

Actually I was looking for Santa, who usually is sitting inside this store, to give him my Christmas list. But he was not there. Perhaps he’s still busy preparing the turkey for the Thanksgiving.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I woke up this morning feeling cold. I pulled up the comforter to warm me up a bit. As I opened my eyes I was greeted with snowflakes softly tapping on our windowpane. It is December after all, and in two weeks it would be Christmas.


view from our window

Today, my wife decided to decorate our home for the season. Yes, we were a little late decorating this year. We even skipped having a Christmas tree this time. Putting up a freshly cut tree had become a tradition in our home since we moved here in Iowa.


our fireplace

As we hung up our holiday ornaments, and with snow continuing to fall outside, it is really “beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” just like the popular song goes. That also means that I need to shovel and clear the snow in our the driveway later. Rats! Though my son was excited to go outside and build his snow fort. One man’s misery is another one’s fantasy!

However even with the “holiday cheers” in our home, for some reason I cannot get off my mind the images of a place where I was, a little more than a week ago. A place of devastation (see previous post), where Christmas is the farthest thing you think of. And another familiar song is ringing in my head – “do they know it’s Christmas time at all?”


(image from Manila Bulletin)

As I ponder on this, I was comforted with the thought that real Christmas is not about decorations and Christmas trees. It’s not about shopping and completing our list (wives, are you listening?). It’s not even about receiving gifts or exchanging gifts (good luck telling that to your kids!).

Christmas is commemorating the coming of the Son of God to this wretched planet (wars, calamities and all), to redeem our dying world. With that thought, we all can celebrate Christmas.

Season’s Tinsel and Glitter

When I was growing up in Manila, we did put up some decorations during Christmas. The ornaments were not much – a colorful parol that we hand-made (oftentimes as a school project) hanging outside the window, and a small Belen in the living room, but that was enough to spruce up the holiday mood. We don’t have a Christmas tree, not even a scraggly fake one, though sometimes we had “kumukuti-kutipap” lights. And I don’t mean lights being on and off due to the frequent power outages that we had then.

Now that I moved out of the country, it also became a tradition in our home here in Iowa to decorate for Christmas. This, I believe, decreases the pangs of homesickness for us, while in turn, creates wonderful memories for our children. We even have a real live Christmas tree inside our home that we get from a tree farm each year. And we don’t need to add fake snow, we have lots of the real one. Yes, too much (*sigh*) of the real one .

Here are some of our Christmas decor this year:

parol made of capiz (from the Philippines)

“Behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them.” Matthew 2:9

"PEACE" hanging in our fireplace mantel

“Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”

wreaths adorning the stairs

star lights on the window

“O star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright.” (We Three Kings of Orient Are)

soft glow on the porch

dangling luminescence on a clear night

“It came upon a midnight clear.”

trimmings on our tree

silver bells, silver bells.....I mean......balls?

“O Christmas tree! O Christmas tree!”


“Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”

crystal Nativity

It is easy to get lost in all the tinsel and glitter of the holidays. But let us not forget the real reason for the season.

the real reason

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Isaiah 9:6

Search for the Perfect Tree

Six years ago we had our first real freshly cut evergreen for our Christmas tree. When I was growing up in Manila, we rarely put up an artificial Christmas tree if at all, more so a real live one. I don’t think there are available real pines for Christmas trees back home? And even if there are, we surely cannot afford them anyway.

The real ones were so much better, from the way they look, the way they feel (though sometimes prickly), and the way they smell. We like them very much that every Christmas we had real ones ever since, except for last year.Well, last year was when we exchanged our white Christmas for a warm Christmas, when we went back home in Manila for the holiday season. In fact, that was my first Christmas back in the Philippines after 15 years of living abroad.

About two weeks ago we went to a tree farm to choose and tag our Christmas tree. So there we were, in a freezing cold, out in vast open farm, with endless rows after rows of evergreens, looking for the perfect one. After passing tree after tree after tree, they all looked the same to me. But my wife has strict criteria. “Oh, that’s too tall. That one is too small. Oh, that’s to shaggy. That’s too baldly. That’s too fat. That’s too thin. That’s too asymmetrical. That’s too…..”. And so on and so forth.

After several minutes of walking through several rows of trees, my wife sensed my lack of enthusiasm, so she sent me and the kids to the farm’s office to get warm. She continued her quest to look for the perfect one. She probably looked over hundreds of them, and I’m not exaggerating.

It was comfortable and toasty inside the farm’s store and office. There was even a man dressed like Santa in a corner handing out gifts. I told my son, who is seven, to go and sit at his lap so he can have the loot that he was giving away. However, he did not want to go, and told me that Santa might have a bad breath. I tell you, my boy is either anti-Santa, or too old for that, or too smart that he knew that the loot from Santa was not worth the trouble. So we just bought popcorn and watched the toy train as it rolled through a miniature town on display while we waited for their mom.

After some time, that seemed like eternity, my wife have not yet returned so I got worried. I called her then on her cellphone to make sure she was still doing OK, and that she was not lost in the forest of trees, or got kidnapped by Christmas elves. She answered and said that she was doing fine and was near a decision on picking the right tree. Sure enough she came back minutes later and told us that she tagged the perfect one.

Yesterday, we went back to the farm to have our chosen tree chopped down and wrapped so we can take it home. You see, you don’t want to harvest your pine too early, or it will dry up and lose all its needles even before Christmas arrives. So usually we choose and tag it by the last week of November, and have it cut down and bring it home by early December.

Our pine was cut down, wrapped, and was tied on top of our car. We then went home with our perfect tree.

After all the trimmings, the decorations, and the lights were placed, I admit that it was beautiful. As I stood beside it with my wife and kids, and gazed some more, I agree that it was indeed a perfect tree. Not that I can tell the difference from all the other evergreens that I saw in the farm. But what makes it perfect are the people I am with as I stood there watching. People that I hold very dear in my heart.

our perfect tree