In Dec. 12 IssueBy Kim GrahamRCN Reporter
In an age of commercialism and technology driven gift giving, Christmas spirit for Bethel Tarter is found in family traditions and homemade gifts.
“I’ve always loved Christmas,” said Bethel Tarter, of Russell County. “This year, it’s a brown bag Christmas with a Charlie Brown tree at my house.”
Tarter is using the theme of classic holiday movie, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and added her own family memories to create her one of a kind tree and spread holiday cheer.
“I think my tree is so beautiful and so unique,” said Tarter. “Green is my favorite color but a Christmas tree doesn’t have to be green.”
Tarter bought the tree, made by her daughter-in-law Carol, at a Coffey’s Chapel Methodist Church youth group fund raiser.
The once bare tree is now adorned with treasures of the heart collected over the years by Tarter.
“Everything on the tree was given to me,” said Tarter. “To anyone else, it probably wouldn’t mean a thing but it’s really special to me.”
Among the ornaments on the tree is a crocheted angel was made by her sister, a cross from a lady at her church, and a Christmas corsage her son made when he was in boy scouts.
Tarter remembers going out to cut their own tree when she first started her own family.
Money was scarce so they did not have lights on their tree but they used what was available to them and affordable to decorate it.
She popped popcorn and strung it for garland and made bells out of cups for decorations. With a little imagination, Christmas cards from the year before became ornaments on the tree.
“They were hard times but good times,” said Tarter. “We didn’t have much money but we were happy.”
Those pleasant memories from the past trim her tree with the spirit of loved ones through their gifts placed on bare, unlit branches.
At the center of her tree, her mother’s pearls hang beside an old family photo taken at Christmas.
Gracing a branch of the tree, her grandma’s cup is a reminder of Sundays at church drinking from a natural spring.
Memories of her grandson’s first Christmas gave her the idea for brown bag gifts.
“My grandson is 20 years old and his first Christmas, I gave him a gift in a brown bag,” Tarter said. “He loved the bag and the bow better than the gift.”
This year, her Christmas gifts to others include home baked banana bread and Blackberry jelly made from berries she picked in her back yard last summer.
Placed in simple paper bags, Tarter’s homemade gifts are bedecked with pretty bows waiting under her Charlie Brown tree.
“We’ve blown gift giving so out of proportion,” Tarter said. “It’s not anything you buy that makes a holiday special.”
Tarter says she knows the holidays will be hard on families this year in our tough economic times and suggests handmade gifts or simply sharing a good meal surrounded by the love of family and friends.
“The gift has already been given,” said Tarter. “Just open your mind, heart, and soul to receive it.”