Trimming the Christmas tree changes a lonely heart

By Barry Ewell

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Dec. 21 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

My companion, against my warning, decided he wanted to light the candles. We got the fire out; however, we were unable to save the tree. It was black with no needles. The apartment smelled of smoldering fire. We did everything we could to clean up the mess, which took until 2 or 3 a.m. In order to get the smell out of the apartment, we left the window open all night. It was one of the coldest nights I can remember. The next morning for Christmas, we rehung the ornaments on the tree and opened our presents. It’s a Christmas memory that literally burned a special place in my heart and will always bring a smile.

One by one, as I uncovered each of the ornaments, memory after memory of Christmases past were brought into view. One of my most favorite memories was the 1992 Christmas in West Jordan. That was the year we began what would become our family tradition I will refer to as a Christmas Treasure Hunt.

That year rather than having all the presents under the tree on Christmas morning, each of the children was presented with a Christmas paper-wrapped container filled with candy and a letter from Santa. Oh, what a shock the children had when to their amazement there was only one gift for each of them under the tree. One by one they opened their present and read aloud their letter from Santa, "Merry Christmas from Santa. It’s time to start your Christmas adventure. Solve one riddle at a time. Search out and find one gift at a time. Once you have found your present, return to let the next person in line begin their quest."

Each letter was filled with Christmas riddles and clues. Solve the riddle in order to find your present. The gifts were hidden throughout the home under tables, in closets, under beds and even inside the washing machine. In the years that followed, each and every member of the family has eagerly awaited finding his letter from Santa under the tree to begin the Christmas Treasure Hunt quest.

Now as our children are starting their families, we are seeing them continue the tradition and create their own versions of the Christmas Treasure Hunt.

Within a couple of hours, my wife and me had decorated our home. This year the decorations had more meaning than in past years because I took time to remember and wrote down those memories so they will not be forgotten. It's a new chapter for my wife and me, but it was a very important time for us as we remembered Christmases past, we still have many more Christmases present and future to share together alone and with our children and grandchildren. I look forward to the memories that will be created.

Barry J. Ewell is author of "Family Treasures: 15 Lessons, Tips and Tricks for Discovering your Family History" and founder of MyGenShare.com, an educational website for genealogy and family history. Facebook: facebook.com/barry.ewell

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