A beautiful evergreen tree…the quintessential part of Christmas and Christmas decorating. Christmas trees and I go waaaaaay back. They continue to be the start of our holiday season the Friday after Thanksgiving, jumpstarting the entire month of December. I could never have a December without a Christmas tree…at least in some form. Ever.
I remember the first Christmas my husband and I shared after we were married. We were poor as church mice with hardly a nickel to rub together. It was dangerously close to Christmas and there we were, in a dinky dark basement apartment, without a tree. We went out to a tree lot somewhere very south of Salt Lake City, in a part of the town I’d never been in, but where they had the cheapest live trees. The only day available, due to his school schedule, was the day of the worst freezing winter snowstorm in the history of very bad snowstorms. I was bone cold. We hurriedly found the first tree that fit the bill, paid the precious $25 we’d scrounged from somewhere and took it home, roped to the top of our Christmas-red late 1960’s two-door Galaxy 500. The sight of that tree standing so proud and beautiful made our tiny little space seem grand and glorious. We had a few no-longer-needed decorations from our parents and a cast-off tree stand. Mr. Farnia’s parents gave us the old-fashioned big-bulb colored lights and when we plugged them in, the tree was the epitome of a perfectly homey, picture postcard Christmas scene. It was a sparse Christmas…as Christmases go, but we had our tree, and we had each other…and that made the magic.
Once our children started arriving and through their growing-up years, we drove to local tree farms (we are blessed to live in Christmas tree central in the Pacific Northwest) to cut down our trees. We did this every Friday after Thanksgiving, always stopping at our favorite house of doughnuts before we set out, jug of hot chocolate in the back of the car, Christmas music playing in the car and me reading favorite Christmas stories to all our Littles sitting in the back seats. This was a precious tradition and one that I miss so much…setting out to find the perfect Christmas tree, sawing it down, toting it to the tiny train and finishing up the expedition with a tailgate hot chocolate and doughnut feast. At one time, we had three big trees on every level of our 3-story home, with little trees tucked in every bedroom and bathroom and in the kitchen. I love the scent of the trees and the sight of them in my rooms.
The first Christmas after my Daddy died, my Mom was reluctant to put up a tree. She had a lot of reasons: Christmas was not going to be the same without him, I can’t cut the tree down myself, it’s too messy to take care of and have to get rid of, etc. I was not going to have her live in that house without a Christmas tree in it. The lack of a tree would have made that house so dreary and sad at Christmas. If she did not want a live one, she would have to have an artificial tree; and so we set out to find her a tree that she could put up and take down by herself. Once we had it up, I offered to help her decorate it, if that would make it easier for her, but she wanted to do it herself and I was so happy for that. I think the process of pulling out each ornament, decorations that meant something to the both of them, precious baubles that had hung on their together-trees for so many years…was actually cathartic for her. She busied herself decking her halls and before long, the Christmas spirit had purged sorrow and loneliness from her heart and filled her home with the merriest of feelings. The healing began with that tree.
I do realize there are many who do not share this same affection for a Christmas tree, where the crazy cost of a live tree is prohibitive, where spaces are too small for such a thing, where someone just doesn’t care a whit about a tree. But I also know there are amazingly creative people who create a tree from a string of lights, or cut apart a pallet to make a tree, or stack books, those who paint a tree on a wall or on a chalkboard or who find a branch and stick it in dirt inside a tin can. I applaud all of you for taking the whole spirit of the sacred Christmas tree and putting your individual stamp on it.
One year the cost of buying two trees started to pinch. Disposing of the tree on the second floor after the holidays meant dragging it out the French doors, onto the upper deck, heaving it over the edge of the railing onto the pavers below where it sat, lonely, completely dead and devoid of all its needles until summer…it was time to rethink the artificial thing. Dealing with the water that spilled onto the carpet when I had to refill the reservoir and the needles that I could never quite vacuum up and found well into the summer…when all of that happened, I casually mentioned to Mr. Farnia that it might be a good thing to invest in an artificial tree. Horrors! I had always been staunchly anti-artificial-trees, but I finally began to see the wisdom in owning one. I was choosy. The first year I visited the family of my husband-to-be, there in the corner of their front room, was an aluminum Christmas tree…the kind that had aluminum rosettes on the tips of the branches and the little light that rotated at its base illuminating the tree with red, green, blue and clear lights. My jaw dropped.
All the artificial trees I’d seen looked so…well, artificial. They smelled like plastic. I suggested visiting our favorite nursery and checking the trees out there. It was a wise decision. No artificials from Costco, Michael’s, Home Depot or even the wholesale house were going to work. The nursery actually had pre-lit artificial trees that looked just like real trees. I loved that. They were a bit pricey, but I figured that the tree would pay for itself over the years. And it has. When we moved from our big old trees-on-every-floor-and-in-every-room house to a peaceful and content little (little being the operative word here) cottage on an island, we decided to just put up the artificial tree. I can have the tree up before Thanksgiving now, extending the season a little longer. I will say that I love our tree. It is regal, bushy, stately and perfect…and it really does look real, except for the scent. I found little hanging Christmas tree scents (check Target) that smell just like a Christmas tree; however, the scent doesn’t last long. (They do make everything in your Christmas storage bins smell heavenly when you tuck them inside with your ornaments.) I have Bath and Body Works “Winter” candles burning all the time and their wall scents with the “Winter” fragrance wafting through my home with that delicious scent all season long. It works. I do love my tree. I can do things on the artificial tree that I could not do with a real tree. It works for me. Yet…..
My memories of our annual tree-getting still keep me warm every Christmas. Our children, when their schedules and locations permit, continue the tradition of getting their own trees the Friday after Thanksgiving, fortified by doughnuts and hot chocolate and driving to a perfect tree farm to select their prize. We are invited along with those children that live the closest or if we are visiting the southernmost children at Thanksgiving. I love going with them and helping to cut their tree and watching them decorate it. Circumstances, such as living in Nevada and southern California, where there are no tree farms to be found, mean that those families drive over the freeway and through the neighborhoods to Home Depot or Whole Foods (who stock their trees early) dashing all the way, to get their beautiful trees. It is the spirit of the thing that counts. As are the recollections they cherish of driving over the river and through the woods every year for our perfect Christmas trees, which I know still fill their hearts with sweet memories so strongly that they want to have those same precious times with their own families. The tradition continues. Thank heaven.
I cry every year when I take the tree down. Sniff. It’s like a good friend and I hate to see it go.
Merriest and brightest of Christmases to you, my dear friends. I wish you peace, prosperity, snowflake kisses and snowman hugs.
The images you see here are from my Pinterest board. You can follow along with me at The Chronicles of Farnia. Hope to see you there.
Total aside here: you can kinda tell i’m obsessed with the whole GIF thing. Here’s one more, because I kinda this way every Christmas. Ho, ho, ho….