Monday, November 22, 2021

The Christmas Tree

 'Tis the Season - Right? The Season for family, friends, frolicking, and, most importantly, the pièce de ré·sis·tance - the Christmas Tree. Whether live and fresh or synthetic and artificial, it is the symbol of holiday hearth and home. There are many interpretations of this festive conifer. In the 60's there was the silver (aluminum) tree with the multi color light wheel projecting a parade of colors on the tree. These days, artificial trees come in a myriad of colors (without the light wheel) pink, blue, purple. There has been the tree that hangs upside down from the ceiling. I had a friend who would decorate a tree then burn it. (If nothing else, this made a statement). There are the "designer" trees where someone pays a small fortune for someone else to decorate their tree. Personally, I think this defeats the purpose.

There is "a tree in the Grand Hotel, one in the park as well, It's the sturdy kind that doesn't mind the snow". The largest tree I've ever seen is the one at Rockefeller Center. And, of course, the simple sad looking tree Charlie Brown had.

Whatever the type, most of us grew up with childhood memories of our family tree. As a child I cannot remember exactly when we got our tree. I do remember where - a tree lot off the St Matthew's Rd. You know, the traditional area outlined by white light bulbs strung from pole to pole. It was a Frazier Fir, if I recall correctly. It is was not from such a lot, it was from the Piggly Wiggly. After all, the first site of the Christmas trees lined up outside the grocery store announced the official beginning of the holiday season. Like many homes back then, we had the traditional tree lights of the time, the ones the size of your thumb when an entire string could easily heat a room. At High Acres, we had a simple Virginia pine that we cut down on the farm.

When our children were young, we selected and cut down our tree on a tree farm. Usually it was a Leyland Cypress. And, we always got it the Friday after Thanksgiving.

When the Christmas Tree farm we frequently used closed, we found another one, about an hour away. In addition to Leylands, they had several different varieties we tried over the years. There was the Noble Fir, supposed to be the "King " of trees. A truly beautiful tree that unfortunately lost much of its needles before Christmas day. There was also the Blue Spruce- a lovely tree with a blue Hue. Unfortunately, the branches were so prickly that by the time the tree was trimmed, our arms looked as if we had been in a cat fight, and the cat had won.

When our family joined the episcopal church, I was surprised to learn that the tree was not to be  until Christmas Eve and stayed up until Epiphany, through the 12 days of Christmas. (Turtle Doves and all). Even as members of the church, we continued to put our tree up the Friday after Thanksgiving (and take it down before New Year's Eve). It was blasphemy but in the church's benevolence we must have been forgiven as we were never excommunicated.

Talking with friends, I find there are many traditions (and theories) about when is the right time to buy the tree. But, to each their own. Personally, given the amount of effort, time, and money, if the tree is not put up 4 weeks before Christmas, it is not worth the investment. So for me it is some time Thanksgiving week.

That being the case, this upcoming week is "The" week. Furniture must be rearranged, boxes and totes filled with lights, balls, and garlands brought out, a holiday playlist selected, and the "perfect" tree brought home. There will be the frustrating issue of getting the tree straight in the stand, rotating it to see the best side, untangling the lights, and then getting them straight on the tree. Too many lights on the top and we may run short at the bottom or vice a versa. At that point the process can slow to an enjoyable pace. I may take a day or 2 to carefully place each ornament on the best place. 

I think we often fail to realize the joy of pulling each ornament from its box. For each individual ball, toy, or whatever has a story. I cannot speak for everyone, but I find myself cherishing each memory as I hang the ornament. It may be a ball with a glass opening that shows a miniature scene inside. In one case, it is Charlie Brown and Lucy ice skating. This was a special Hallmark ornament from the 70's I got as a child from Daddy's store. (Hard to believe that 50 years ago.) There are the ornaments collected from places traveled. The ones that were gifts from special friends. And, always the precious ones made of Popsicle sticks, glue, and pipe cleaners.

There are the glass balls I found on sale when we trimmed our first tree. I never thought of the expense of trimming a tree until the Christmas of 1982 when got our first tree. It was only then I realized that it would take patience and time to collect enough ornaments to properly decorate our tree. From this lesson I started a tradition of giving our granddaughters ornaments each year for Christmas so they will at least be a bit more prepared for their first tree than we were.

So each year's tree is a labor of love, a family tradition, a trip down memory lane, as well as the ultimate decoration that is the center of the home's holiday tradition. Then like something akin to a castle on the beach that awaits its fate by the change of the tide, in a manner of weeks, the process will be reversed, and everything will be put back up, moved back out, and the tree retired to the rubbish or recycle bin. We will be as glad to see it go, as we were thrilled when it was first put up. 

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