First off, I’d like to wish a Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Holiday, or non-Holiday to everyone reading this, regardless of what you celebrate – whatever it is you do (or don’t do) over the next few weeks, I hope that you do it in a way that makes you happy.
All of which said … I love Christmas trees, and I have since I was a very little child.
I love the lights and the ornaments. I love drinking hot chocolate (or coffee) while I unwrap the various balls and baubles that carry so many memories, and hanging them on the tree while my family swaps stories of Christmases past.
I’m not as big on stringing the lights, mostly because it’s not that easy to electrically mummify an eight-foot tree when you’re just over five feet tall. Still, I manage, mostly because the lights must precede the ornaments, and, well … ORNAMENTS. WOO!
Almost a decade ago, when we moved to Sacramento, our family established a new tradition for picking a Christmas tree. I’m a fan of noble firs, and large noble firs at that. (I have continuing trouble recalling that nine foot trees won’t fit in a room with eight-foot ceilings.) In the years before we moved to Sacramento, our house had a vaulted ceiling, and selecting the tree (which usually measured 12 to 14 feet in height) wasn’t always easy.
The year we moved north, we all came down with the flu as Christmas approached, and quickly realized our former method of tree selection wouldn’t work that year. In fact, I barely had the strength to get to the tree lot at all. We walked as a family into the lot, took a look at the first noble fir of semi-appropriate size (a nine-footer, as I recall…see my note about the eight foot ceilings…) and said “let’s just take that one.”
Bear in mind … the tree was still bound up with shipping twine. We couldn’t see it. Couldn’t evaluate its beauty. Couldn’t determine whether or not this was the perfect tree to grace our family’s home.
We didn’t care.
The objective was “return with a tree” and between the cold weather and the flu, “a tree” was about as far as we could take it.
When we got the tree home and removed the twine, the branches fell into a perfect shape–as full and as lush as any tree we’d ever had before. It even fit in the living room … as soon as we took six inches off the base and removed the topmost branch that otherwise would have held the golden star. (Stars are overrated…right?)
With that, a tradition was born.
Every year since, we go to the lot and select a “mystery tree” still bound from shipping. We load it in the truck and bring it home. We see our tree for the very first time when we place it in the stand and remove the twine. Some years they’re thick. Some years, they’re thin. Some years, we have more spaces for big hanging ornaments than others. (You call them “holes,” I call them “hanging ornament windows.”)
Selecting the tree this way not only solves the issue of “finding the perfect tree” (and takes a lot less time than the other method, too) but helps me remember that Christmas isn’t about perfection. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s about remembering that we’re loved because we aren’t perfect. That we are the way we’re made–and each of us is worthy of being loved exactly the way we are.
I love Christmas trees. They remind me of where I came from, help me celebrate where I am, and remind me that perfection isn’t a requisite–each of us can be lovely, and worthy, and much appreciated just for being who we are.