December 13, 2010

Christmas Trees, Real & Imaginary


Some people get their panties in a wad if the tree twinkling in the corner isn’t a Spruce, Fir or Pine. I truly don’t believe a “live” or “cut-down” Christmas tree is any better than an artificial one (gasp! horror!) Now while those of you who think I’ve committed a cardinal sin collect themselves, let me explain. What is special to one person might not mean anything to another. Maybe you insist on having a living (notice I won’t say “real” because my tree is real too, even if it isn’t alive) tree because you love to go chop it down or pick it out from a tree farm each year. Maybe you love the smell or the idea of bringing something alive into your home for a few weeks. I’m sure if my family had always adhered to the tradition of a live tree, I would feel as strongly.


I was 13 when we got our beloved Christmas tree. My family had just moved into a new house and since we had a little bit more room, we decided to get a new, bigger tree. We all piled in the mini-van and went to Lowe’s to pick it out. I knew as soon as I saw it that it was the one. Six and a half feet, full and bushy, the perfect shade of green… it was a glorious specimen to my 13 year old self. It also cost $100…a huge amount to us, especially for something to be used only once a year. I must have made a convincing case because it came home with us that night.

That first Christmas with the tree and almost every one after that has included the same routine: My dad and I get it down from the attic and proceed to assemble its many parts…each tier of branches color coded to match a set of holes on the trunk. We try to identify the color of paint on each branch, even though they have chipped and faded over the years. My mom flits around rearranging things and hanging ornaments while my brother humors us by sitting in the same room for the required yuletide minimum. This is our tradition. It doesn’t involve driving out to a snowy farm and using an axe or saw, but its our tradition just the same and it means the world to me.

Another part of my tree trimming traditions included putting up a tree for my great grandparents. I’m not sure how this got started, but each year I would go to their house and my grandpa and I would decorate their tree while my grandma flitted (it’s genetic) around the kitchen cooking us a delicious lunch to eat when we were done. In the earlier years they always had a living tree. It was a Spruce that would tear your hands to shreds while the huge lights they used burned like crazy. I convinced them to switch to a non-living tree after awhile and when those gigantic lights finally burned out, we replaced them with small ones. But every one of those times is an equally priceless memory to me….whether the tree was alive or not. I know you “live tree” lovers out there don’t mean to, but when you look down your noses at us “non-living tree” folks, it’s kind of like you are saying our memories and traditions aren’t as special as yours.

This is a highly debated topic. There are die-hard fans of living or cut trees who will never go artificial. Maybe your family is one of these. Maybe you have a special “store-bought” tree like ours that you love to use every year. Or maybe you don’t put up a tree and instead string lights everywhere and have a gorgeous wreath. No matter what you do for your Christmas traditions, treasure the ones you make the traditions with. Cling to your traditions, relish them each year, but be willing to let them evolve and change every now and then.

Now, I’m just dying to know….what kind of tree do you have? And one more thing….I haven’t even begun to share my love of Christmas trees that are silver! More on that to come.