A few ramblings on Christmas Trees


Growing up, we were never allowed to put up the Christmas tree until after my father’s birthday which was a week before Christmas.  We sat slack-jawed at the trees in neighbors’ home that appeared before Thanksgiving Turkey had been digested.   If packages appeared underneath that tree, our jealousy was even greater.

Once, when my son was about 8, we bought a live tree on the way home from a late November soccer game.  It was a delightful sacrilege to inhale the pine aroma each morning and to sit in my darkened living room watching the tree lights twinkle.

I haven’t put up a tree yet this year, though I have managed to pull a few boxes out of storage already.  It may be up at the end of this week — just a few days before my father’s birthdate.   I wonder what he would think?   Perhaps, if he didn’t have to put up a tree or string lights on a house — two tasks he really did not like to do — he wouldn’t have minded so much.

LightTreeRedLights1sm
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My favorite thing about Christmas lights in looking at them in the dark.  If I remove my glasses, it is even better as the lights bend and blur in a dark sea of color.  This is much more fun with strands of color lights, but I prefer to decorate my tree with white lights.

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Nothing beats the scent of a real tree.  Yet, I hate the idea of chopping down a perfectly good tree to stand in your living room for a few weeks at the end of the year.   Once you hang the lights and add ornaments and tinsel, there is nothing “natural” about the tree.   There is nothing “natural” about a tree in your house, unless it is after a sever storm and you really don’t want one then!  I’m sticking with my artificial tree, currently residing half-time in a box, the rest on the closet floor, in the basement.   Despite it only consisting of four pieces, I will still struggle to get them in the right arrangement that will allow for it to stand on its own.

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The best artificial trees are ones that seem to have holes in them, just like those in the natural world.  Perhaps I just feel this way because every artificial tree I’ve owned as been less-than-perfect — and, thus,  looked very real.

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Despite my Yule decorations looking like Charlie Brown’s, my favorite Christmas show of all time is How The Grinch Stole Christmas.  I memorized the poem in 5th grade, but my favorite parts of the show are not in Dr. Seuss’ original.   I will hum “You’re a mean one, MR. GRINCH”, as I wrap presents.   The incongruence of this just makes me smile.  “You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch.  You’re a nasty wasty skunk. Your heart is full of unwashed socks. Your soul is full of gunk, Mr Grinch.  The three best words that best describe you, Are as follows, and I quote:  “Stink! Stank! Stunk! “

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It is likely that I’ve read Robert Frost’s Christmas Trees previously, but I didn’t recall it when I read it this evening.   It is a lovely poem.   Like Frost, I wish that I could mail you a Christmas tree.

CHRISTMAS TREES

The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine,
I said, “There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”

“You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north.
He said, “A thousand.”

“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?”

He felt some need of softening that to me:
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”

Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas

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When addressing family and friends – people who I know — I will typically say Merry Christmas unless I know that they do not celebrate it.  To everyone else, I will say Happy Holidays.   This is not some media-coerced attempt at Political Correctness.  I think it is politeness.   I don’t buy the Fox News malarkey (a word which I used before VP Biden did; thanks, Joe!) about a “war on Christmas”.   Explaining why I am NOT offended by someone happily wishing me a Happy Holiday would take an entire post, but I do not feel that I could state it as well as it is in this post:  Top Ten Reasons Christians Should Stop Whining About Secular XMas.    Regardless of how you feel on the topic, whether you are religious or not, Christian or Pagan or Jew or Atheist, you should read it.

For the record, I agree with every bit of it.

7 responses to “A few ramblings on Christmas Trees

  1. The Christmas tree tradition – very much a part of my Christmases too. When small, we used to get a real pine tree (a big one, we had a high ceiling where it always stood), but it was always a ‘weed’ tree, one that would be removed anyway because of where it was growing. Decorating it was so much fun, except for the lights, which never worked until my dad worked his magic and got them going!
    When my children were small, the Christmas tree was so exciting and they loved decorating it. Now, though, they are all grown up and I decorate the tree on my own each year and the family come and go, but I think the tree has lost a bit of its magic for them. I think this is rather sad.

    • My sister’s grown children still pick out & decorate her tree. I’m a bit jealous. But, will be glad to have my tree up when my son comes to visit next week! I don’t know that he’ll think much about it, but I think he would definitely notice if I DIDN’T have it.

  2. Hi Anne,
    What a lovely post. I still in the back pasture with Robert Frost. Merry Christmas to you!

  3. Love these muted and provoking pictures! Each year after all these years my grown children come for a tree decorating evening. It is still a fond tradition :)