Yasma Stringer spreads her holiday spirit through the elaborate Christmas trees she decorates for her own home, as well as for those less fortunate that would not have a Christmas tree otherwise.
On Christmas Eve, family and friends gather around a natural fir tree, a German custom. Then, while the clip-on Christmas tree candle lights are being lit, everyone bursts forth singing, “O Tannebaum, o Tannenbaum, wie treu sind deine Blatter! (translation, “O Christmas Tree, o Christmas Tree, how lovely are thy branches.”1)
When Yasma Stringer completes decorating her pre-lit Christmas tree, she isn’t singingthe old folk song, but she is saying, “How lovely are the branches.” Admiring her hard work, she remembers Christmas pasts and marvels how the foundation for this annual tradition has grown into an opportunity she could have never imagined.
As a young child living in Fayette, Mississippi, the annual Christmas tradition found her eagerly waiting for her Dad to go out on their property, choose the perfect tree and bring it home for decorating. Yasma shares, “The tree represented a time of being together, a time of happiness with my family. I have lots of treasured memories of Christmas; we expressed our love towards each other and shared that love with others. Years later when I had my own home, I continued the same ritual; a tree and a time of togetherness with family and friends.”
For Yasma, traditional decorating was placed in a box and thrown out the door. Now, containers--all strategically organized and numbered--hold thousands of glass ornaments, ribbons, feathers, and other embellishments. She states, “My trees are certainly an expression of me and my personality.” Yearly, she decorates three to five trees. The trees, from six to nine feet in height, will hold anywhere from 400 to 1000 ornaments per tree. Decorating by a color scheme, investing painstaking hours, Yasma gets great joy and delight from her work. Annually she hosts Christmas dinner parties for her family and friends, and the whimsical trees are the highlight of the gatherings.
About seven years ago, a new branch grew from her annual tradition. It started when Yasma took a mission trip to India with her church. “It was a life-changing experience. I had done mission work in Africa several times but in India we ministered to hundreds of children, the majority of whom were orphans (aka ‘street kids’). This trip left a big impression on my heart and the question became, ‘How can I share God’s love with people outside the four walls of my church?’” she recalls.
The answer came later during the Christmas holiday and her non-profit organization called “Trees of Light” was born. The organization receives the name of local families who are not able to afford a tree and decorations. Working with the parents, Yasma usually arrives at the house while the children are at school. She provides a pre-lit tree and all of the decorations. By the time the children arrive home, she has personally decorated the tree. Additionally, this gives her an opportunity to learn more about the family, share the Christmas story and God’s love. Her heart skips a beat when the children return home to find a beautiful tree of lights: their lip smiling, eyes twinkling and sometimes tears streaming down their faces. Occasionally there is, “Ms. Stringer, can we keep the tree?” She replies with a resounding “yes!” As she leaves the home, she is filled with overflowing gratitude for a tradition which was started years ago, touching lives through the legacy of the trees.
If you would like to learn more about this non-profit organization and how to be involved, you may visit her website: www.treesoflight.orgor by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
1 “O Christmas Tree”, written by German organist and teacher Ernst Anschutq, around 1824.