Why I Cry Every Holiday, and Why It’s Awesome

Crystal Sykes

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It pops up just about everywhere during the holiday season, including churches, schools, and box stores. It’s a tall green beacon, decorated with colorful tags, and it’s hard to miss. It’s the Angel Giving Tree, and each of those colorful tags has a name on it.

The Salvation Army’s red bucket and bell ringers have nothing on this puppy.  It’s easy for us to rummage through our pockets for change. We drop the coins in: “Kerplunk.” Out of sight, out of mind, your good deed is done for the day.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to give your loose change to an excellent organization, and you should. It’s just not the holiday season without those bell ringers in Santa suits. However, it’s easy to return to your reality and forget about that gift once you’ve given. It takes time and thought to buy a present for a name on the giving tree.

When I was a child, pulling a tag off the giving tree was just something we did every year.  Most of the children that attend the school my mother works at are poor. We pulled tags from the tree at her school. Usually, my mom personally knew the child we were buying for.

My sister and I had fun shopping, and we often bought everything listed on the tag. We knew we were helping someone in need, but we didn’t fully understand that this toy might be the only one that child would get this year.

A few years later, I went to college and forgot about the giving tree. I was caught up in the whirlwind that is secondary school. I had a job, studied hard, and had a healthy social life. I didn’t have much focus on anything other than getting through school and having fun.

It would be eight more years until I would find the giving tree again when I met the man who was to become my husband. He was a single teacher with no real responsibilities or bills. His giving tradition was to shower a local children’s shelter with presents. We wanted to continue giving together, and I introduced him to the giving tree.

Now, every year, we pick one or two tags from the tree together. When we can, we choose a boy and a girl.  Sometimes the budget is tight, and we can only afford to buy for one. You can bet that child is showered with presents.

“Charlie, age 9. Wants: a Star Wars LEGO set. Needs: Socks and underwear.” My overactive imagination paints a picture of a little boy whose parents can’t afford to buy him new socks and underwear when he needs them. I picture his face, and I take an imaginary punch in the heart. This is where the tears come in – every year.

It is easy to get caught up in our lives and forget how blessed we truly are. The giving tree reminds us of our blessings. It makes us think about how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads, food to eat, water to drink, a warm bed to sleep in, and Christmas presents to give. This reminder is the real gift.

I will be continuing this tradition with my children. It’s important to teach them to give to others, even when giving makes our hearts sad. If you have never pulled a tag from the giving tree, consider trying it this year. Those trees are not hard to find.

If your school or church does not have a giving tree program, contact your local Salvation Army to find out where one is stationed in your community.



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It’s a tall green beacon, decorated with colorful tags, and it’s hard to miss. It’s the Giving Tree, and each of those colorful tags has a name on it.

This post was written by Crystal Sykes exclusively for BonBon Break Media LLC.

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Crystal Sykes is a native Montanan who loves to create. She has always been passionate about cooking, baking, and eating, and food has been a huge part of her family. She learned how to cook from her grandmother (who learned to cook from her French grandmother) and her mother. Writing is her other passion, after her husband, of course. She has a degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing.