Going out to pick the perfect Christmas tree has been one of my favorite traditions since I was a little girl. Whether the tree came from the grocery store lot, a wooded tree farm or the middle of the forest, each tree choosing was a special adventure.
It didn’t matter that the tree be a perfectly symmetrical cone either. Often we had trees with unique holes, funny branches and even a birds nest hidden inside. Each tree was made beautiful when we got it home and secured it in the tree stand, put on the lights and covered it in ornaments. Even the most Charlie Brownest of Christmas trees could be made into the Rockefeller Center Tree once it was shown a little love.
This tradition continues to be a huge part of the holiday season for my kids as well, and the thing that I cannot, absolutely will not do, is succumb to the current trend of buying artificial trees that seems to be cropping up everywhere I look.
Open the ads in the Sunday paper and they are full of fake trees. Look! You can buy one with the lights already on it, in a variety of styles from “retro” to “classic”. I bet you can even get one with the ornaments on it too, eliminating the work in putting them on.
Where, I ask, is the fun in an artificial tree?
Is it that people think they are being eco-friendly? Because if that’s the case, I beg to differ. You cannot plant a plastic tree when the season is over. Yes, you might box it up and use it again next year, but you can’t turn it into mulch for your garden, plant it, or recycle it for a charitable organization. You can’t smell it either (unless they’ve come up with an evergreen scented tree that I don’t know about). No amount of Glade Holiday Expression candles will ever, ever replace the real scent of a real tree.
And what about the adventure of finding your tree? You only have to locate the box and unwrap it. Where is the fun in that? Where are the anxious kids, happily trudging through the tree farm (or grocery store lot), looking the trees over saying “how about that one, Dad?” How about the anticipation and excitement that overtakes their little bodies as their father crawls around on the ground underneath the tree, wielding the saw that the tree farm provides, and goes to work on the trunk of the tree as the kids wait for it to be free from it’s hold in the earth and taken home to become part of their Christmas? How about the apple cider and hot chocolate that cap off the whole tree-hunting trip?
Granted, I have seen many beautiful artificial trees, and many tacky ones too. I know that when I am 80 years old, a table sized plastic tree may be my only choice, but why would I want one now? Why would I want to take this tradition away from my kids in order to “make it easier” on myself?
That isn’t what these traditions are about for me, they are about the hustle and bustle, the work and the chaos of getting all the things that make Christmas special for us done. They are about not getting enough sleep and being so excited that you run around like a hyper reindeer. They are about sitting back with a mug of hot buttered rum and admiring the decorated tree that was the last one left on the lot and you took it home and made it special.
So, although the artificial tree craze seems to be taking over, I will not be participating. I will take my kids to the tree farm; pick out our “perfect” imperfect tree. We will tie it to the top of our car and take it home to spray it for spiders before bringing it into the house. We will string the lights and try to hide all of the wires. We will put on that favorite Christmas cd and get out all of the ornaments from our childhood and the ones we’ve collected since we’ve made our own family. We will put the “baby’s 1st Christmas, 1972” ornament upon the branches of our tree right alongside the handmade ones that the boys have been spoiling me with each year they’ve been attending school.
When it’s all done, we’ll sit back and bask in the glow (yes, bask) of our family’s tree. We’ll enjoy it for as long as the season allows (or until it becomes a fire hazard) and then we’ll remove it from the house, recycle it and clean up all the dry needles left behind.
I wouldn’t trade this tradition for the world.