On the Topic of Christmas Trees

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.

13L11 Christmas dragon

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?) 

13K12Tree empty

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.

13L08 Tree 2013

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.

5 thoughts on “On the Topic of Christmas Trees

  • December 13, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    That so reminds me of the adventures we’ve had with trees at my dad’s place! One year it was too tall and after trying to take off several inches off the base, he had to take off part of the top. (Sounds familiar?) Stars? Who needs stars?
    Or the year where dad’s family was going on holidays the day after Christmas and wanted “just a cheap tree for three days”. It was so cheap, all the branches were pointing upwards, so we would hang apples, oranges and tangerines from them.
    And yes, lights always come first. In our case, this mean real candles. Yes, real candles. I grew up in Germany, and to this day, both my parents have real candles on their respective trees. And no, even when my half-brother had first a cat and later a dog, the worst that happened was that the dog ate the chocolate decorations on the tree and was sick.
    (Now I have a 3-year-old daughter and we still stick with our candles.)

  • December 15, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Hi Susan! Love your blog and can’t wait to read your book. Great meeting you at the luncheon yesterday.

    • December 18, 2013 at 12:25 pm

      Hi Linda! It was great meeting you too – and thanks for the compliment! Let’s be sure to set up an author interview when your book comes out, too!

  • December 22, 2013 at 7:03 am

    What a wonderful story of the mystery tree. I haven’t had a tree for years and I do miss it but not enough to go through the effort of putting one up. Maybe next year….

    • December 23, 2013 at 9:43 am

      Thank you! I love our trees – even more now that we’ve turned the selection itself into a family tradition.

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