I bought my first real Christmas tree this year.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I grew up getting real Christmas trees. Every early December, my family and I would drive out to a Christmas tree farm (I grew up in the boonies) and cut down our own Christmas tree. Sometimes they ended up beautifully gorgeous and full. Sometimes we thought they were beautifully gorgeous and full only to get home, put it up, and find that we were sorely mistaken. Hilarious holiday hijinks, amirite?

Anyway. Since I moved out of my parents’ house seven years ago, I have only ever had a fake tree. Which is fine—real trees are difficult in Manhattan apartments (and EXPENSIVE, holy moly). But this year was my first Christmas with my partner (and I was finally out of Manhattan), and I wanted a real tree. I missed the smell of it, the Christmas atmosphere that, for me, a real Christmas tree carries. So, on a rainy day in the beginning of December, my partner and I made the mile-long trek to the closest Christmas Tree stand to get our tree.

And we did!! We walked it home (I offered to carry it, just to let it be known, but my offer was rejected), put it up, and it was beautiful! After we let it fall, I strung it with lights (#teamcoloredlights). But there was one problem. We didn’t have any ornaments. Well, that’s not entirely true. We had two ornaments from a friend of mine who makes them as Christmas gifts. But other than that, it was bare. Well, rats.

See, usually, we would have been traveling a bit this year, collecting ornaments as we go. We had two trips and two weddings scheduled for 2020 that all got rescheduled. But, since none of that travel happened, none of those ornaments were acquired. Hence, bare Christmas tree.

I hated it. It imbued me with a feeling of loneliness that just didn’t sit right with me. My family tree was always loaded with ornaments that we made or collected through the years, so a bare tree just seemed…wrong.

So, on a whim, I posted a picture of my tree on Instagram. I made a joke about how I was accepting ornaments from anyone willing to send them. I really didn’t think anyone would take me up on it.


Soon ornaments came pouring into my mailbox from some of my favorite people. From a former coworker at an oyster bar came a gorgeous oyster on the half shell. From a friend I have known for almost 20 years, a light-up snowman. An aunt sent me a collection of ornaments that she had that my father painted when he was home sick with the flu in second grade. My tree’s bare branches soon started filling up with little memories from some very good friends.

I was shocked by their generosity, but even more so moved by how thoughtful the ornaments were. I could tell each one was selected with care, pointedly made to reflect my relationship with that person. In a year where I felt extremely isolated from all friends and family, it was almost like I was seeing them again. Somehow, we have managed to create memories during this holiday season without actually physically being together. And that is a beautiful thing. That’s true friendship.

I want to dedicate this blog post, my last of 2020, to those friends and family members who I haven’t seen all year, or maybe even longer. I love you all and I am so thankful for the gift of your friendship. I appreciate you to the moon and back, and I cannot wait to create real, in-person memories with you (hopefully) soon.

Happy holidays, all.

Kristy Cloetingh is a Philadelphia native who is currently trying to figure out her place in the world. Her passions include reading, singing, dancing, nature, yoga, chicken fingers, and puppies. An anorexia survivor and mental health warrior, Kristy has made it her life’s mission to remind every single person that their bodies and minds are worthy of unconditional love and respect, regardless of size, shape, or whatever “normal” is.

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