Friendship Ball symbolizes God's light to one and all
"This Friendship Ball is a symbol of our friendship. It is a never-ending circle that sparkles in the light the way you bring sparkle to my life. The colors swirl and mingle enhancing each other just as we do. This treasure is handmade. It is unique, just like you!"
Brilliant reds, greens, silvers and golds were spinning, sparkling in the early December sunlight. What were all those colors that caught my eye as I was taking a passing glance? Turning my head back to the source of distraction, I saw a widely spread, leafless tree -- most likely a mature dogwood, but I am not a tree expert. It was filled with supersized Christmas balls and baubles. I could not help but be captivated by all the colors shimmering, reflecting the glorious sunlight from above. They reminded me of two things: a "friendship ball" given to our family a couple of years ago, as well as my own love for humble, but shiny Christmas ball decorations.
Completing a brief Internet research, I learned that the Germans, in the early 1800s, were among the first Christians to bring evergreen trees into their homes for Christmas. It is debatable whether the Germans were using the tree to symbolize the wood used to crucify Jesus, to symbolize the tree of knowledge, to symbolize the promise of new, green life that will come eventually in the spring, or merely mimicking the circa-1600 picture in which St. Christopher, carrying baby Jesus on his shoulder, is seen passing under a leafless tree full of a variety of fruits, candies, baskets and objects that looked similar to Christmas balls.
Early German Christmas tree decorations included apples, nuts and berries. Some families added colored paper to their tree to represent angel hair that was caught up in branches. Others used small pieces of tin foil. In addition, according to legend, Martin Luther began the tradition of placing lit candles in the Christmas tree to represent the stars in the heavens on the night of the Christ child's birth for his children. However, whether the tree had lights or not, the idea possessed by numerous original ornaments was to reflect the light in the room, thus symbolizing God's infinite love "reflected" for us in the birth of his only son.
Learning this history gave my adoration of those shiny, metallic Christmas balls new significance. I have always loved them. My Mammaw, my dad's mom, had one of those tin-foil trees, popular in the late 1960s, early 1970s, with the spinning wheel of color at the bottom. While I loved that spinning wheel, I adored more the effect they had on the green metallic balls she hung on that tree. I could sit in her living room, sneaking pieces of her holiday fudge from her candy bowl, and watch that sparkling centerpiece for quite a long time. In fact, years ago, my dad gave me a box of those decades-old green balls and to this day, I still use them.
My Grandmother, my Mom's mom, hung red and gold metallic balls on her tree, as well as these balls that were covered with wound silkened thread. Although I liked the feel of those balls covered with thread, nothing could beat the way those gold and red balls glistened in the Christmas tree lights wound round and round the tree. As a child, I especially loved the ambiance of my grandparent's living room on Christmas Eve, when Pappaw turned off all other lights, except the Christmas tree lights, and then lit a fire in the hearth. "Peace on Earth" was realized, albeit temporarily, in my young mind, and perhaps even my three other siblings, for one shimmering moment. I smile as I write, thinking about both trees.
Which brings me full circle to the present: the friendship ball and my own Christmas balls. Our family just decorated our Christmas tree this past weekend. First went on the twinkling lights. Next, we wound strands of shiny, red, metallic, miniature balls. After that, our first priority was to place 50 or so shiny, metallic balls of red, hot pink, green, cobalt blue, silver and gold. Finally, we filled in with all the other ornaments we have collected over the years -- each one with its own unique story, it seems. Yet, it is those balls, those simple balls -- reflecting and sending out light into our home and those who pass by our home, the true meaning of the season: light, God's light to one and all -- that I most adore.
Finally, I want to round out this column with the friendship ball, given to us by dear friends. It was a Christmas gift a couple years ago that came wrapped with the saying in which I began this column. Not only do I appreciate those words for what it says about our friendship; but now, I take its meaning a step further: "The friendship ball is (also) a symbol of God's promise to us. It is a never-ending circle of love that brings light into our life. His promise swirls and mingles within in each of us who were uniquely made in His image. The ball is a handmade treasure, just as we are a treasure fashioned from God's hands."
There is a saying, "Namaste," spoken at the end of most yoga classes. Though it has different interpretations, the one I like best is this: "The light in me, honors the light within you."
May Christmas balls remind us all of God's infinite light and love sent to us through the birth of his son. Namaste.
Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and an eighth-grade reading and writing teacher at South Point Middle School. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.