When I was a kid, most of our family lived within a fifteen-mile radius. Almost all of my first cousins were a short ride away. On Christmas Day, my parents would pack us all into the car and head out to do some treeing (after the gifts were opened, of course).
Treeing, in case you’ve never heard the term, was simple. We would drop in on all my aunts and uncles to “see their tree.” Most of the time, we didn’t even call ahead. We just stopped in (and they seemed to expect us). Seeing their tree also involved eating their food, drinking their drinks, and visiting—mostly visiting. This also included the pleasantries of being shown all the gifts everyone in that household had received.
Our treeing usually lasted a couple of days and was then reciprocated by most of the relatives who would come over to our house to see our tree (and our presents). What it really amounted to was a great excuse for everyone to visit each other. Between Christmas day and New Years, we pretty much saw everybody we knew. (That might be an exaggeration, but not much of one.)
Treeing was something we looked forward to each year along with the Fourth of July family get togethers and the occasional ballgames. There’s nothing quite like family and nothing quite like treeing to bring them together. At least, that’s how it was in the old days.
Some of you may remember participating in the whole treeing thing. If you do, you probably grew up in a small town or a rural area. At least, that’s my guess. It’s also my guess that you don’t do it anymore. Our society is so mobile these days, many of us live in faraway places with wide spaces between our families and us. We don’t go treeing at our neighbors’ homes because we just don’t neighbor the way we used to either.
Anymore, the only treeing we do is on Facebook. It’s just not the same as the real thing. Social media is good for a lot of things, but there’s no real substitute for face-to-face give-and-take when building relationships. Skype and Facetime are helpful, but they just can’t replace what we used to do. We honed the artform of treeing to perfection. Now, it seems to be a lost art.
I’m not sure if we’ll ever get back to that kind of practice again, but it would be a really good move in my opinion. Of course, the place this should be happening in absence of nearby kin is the church. In his first epistle, John flat out told us (the church) that “if we walk in the light” (which we’re supposed to be doing), we’ll be having “fellowship with one another.” (1 John 1:7) Unfortunately, treeing seems to be a lost art there as well.
I guess we’re too societally disjointed to make a good attempt at it. Once we’ve lost it in the church, we’ve got problems.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]