Monday, December 04, 2006

Oh Christmas Tree

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.


Grim Reality Girl said...

You make a good case for the real tree, I admit it. You make a VERY good case! Someday I will get a real tree again. In the meantime, my prelight fake one ROCKS!!

I fear death by fire and pine needles piercing my bare feet. I've been touched by fire, and I fear it. For now I'll keep my tree fake and my ornaments kid made. (I get greens so I can have the real tree smell). Not the same, but I have peace of mind.

Your tradition is great -- I lack the courage :-) That might be where other fake tree peoplea are at too. We are not all bad.... really!

Mommy off the Record said...

I have a confession to make: I bought an artifical tree last year. *don't hate me!*

That said, I totally love your reasons for why you will not buy artificial trees.

I bought my tree only for convenience sake last year and b/c I was tired of the dog spilling the water under the tree and having trouble hanging the lights etc. etc.

The same year that I bought the tree, I found out that there is lead in it. Yikes! We are planning to get rid of it by the time our son would be able to reach it. Right now, we put it behind our sofas so he can't touch the poison branches. Talk about holiday cheer! LOL

Also, we miss the smell of pine. And you're right, the most perfect tree in the world doesn't have to look perfect.

Great post!

Mel said...

Funny you bring this up... I was debating buying a fake one this year. Every year, my hippie guilt gets worse and worse, and since I tried to burn the complex down in a terrible grease fire once already this year, I think I'm tempting fate.
But we'll probably get a real one again this year. Just because I'm a mushy sentimental traditionalist.
You know what I mean. :)

Kristin said...

We're getting our tree tonight... we usually just put lights all over it (started when the boys were toddlers) but this year there seems to be a call for ornaments... so, whoo-hoo for ornaments!

I hear the siren call of the fab. prelit fake tree, but, like you, can't quite see the fun in it...

Becky said...

thanks for sharing that and what a cute pic!

Left Coast Sister said...

I LOVE this season!! For once, everything is pretty and lit and good smelling and happy!! Enjoy that tree until Valentine's day if you must!!

Mamacita Tina said...

I love real trees too, ah the smell! But alas, we have an artificial. I wouldn't say it's easier. I'm still fluffing out the branches trying to make it decent. I've probably put in a good six hours just fluffing.

jen said...

i so love a real tree. we've grown ours in a large pot the last two years and drag it inside during the holidays...

can you send me the link for the story you offered over my way for Sunday's wedding?