This Christmas, for the first time in 35 years, we never put up the Christmas tree. It’s not that we didn’t have one – we had three, in fact. So what happened? Did I bring down the jinx of Scrooge on my happy home? So far so good – but the holidays aren’t over yet.
Last spring at our UU congregation’s auction, I bid on a fixed-price Christmas brunch complete with a Christmas tree of my choice, fresh cut at the farm of a fellow Unitarian. Fast forward to early December, when my husband decided to rip out and reinsulate the ceiling in the sunroom where we’ve always put the tree. I begged him to postpone the renovation till after New Year’s, but to no avail – he was hell bent on increasing the R value and saving on oil this winter.
This morning the temperature stands at five degrees, and the wind chill is well below zero. Is the sunroom ceiling finished? Not even close. Standing below the exposed roof beams, I can feel the frigid draft. The white spruce tree from our friend’s farm lies forlorn on the front lawn, never having made it through the front door. By now, some efficient neighbors have already stripped and thrown out their trees, so I’m hoping that if we move this one closer to the street, it will be picked up and fed through the town chipper with no one the wiser.
Anyway, I didn’t get to choose that tree after all. I signed up to usher at a “Sinatra Christmas” big band show at The Egg, thinking I could easily go there after leaving the brunch, but it turned out picking the tree involved a half-mile hike up a snowy road, then felling a 30 foot tree with a chain saw and cutting off the top to yield a tree of the desired size. Our host took a well-deserved brunch break just when I was all set to pick the tree, so my husband drove me home to change into my black and white ushering garb, then drove back to select and help fell the tree. We’ve fought about Christmas tree size for decades – I’ve always wanted them bigger, and I’ve always been there to make the ultimate judgment call – but I had to trust his judgment.
He did the best he could, but it’s hard to pick a Christmas tree when the part you want is 30 feet in the air. The white spruce he brought home was on the scroungy side. Worse, it was pricklier by far than the balsam or Frazier fir we usually get. True, it had dozens of cute little pine cones, but they fell off instantly at the slightest touch, and we knew the ornaments would be highly vulnerable to falling construction debris. So as Christmas came and went, the tree lay naked and neglected in the yard.
But we did enjoy two other Christmas trees. Several years ago I planted a Wichita Blue juniper in front of the house. It’s been very happy there, and it’s now over 12 feet tall, with the slender silhouette of a Van Gogh cypress. This year I festooned it with green, teal and blue lights, and it looks very elegant, though not as raucously festive as our neighbors’ multicolored cascades of lights and inflatable Santas. The most wonderful tree, though, was the one our daughter put up in her new home in Woodstock. It’s full, fragrant, and loaded with lights and ornaments, including some we passed on to her from trees we decorated when she was a child. Watching our granddaughters play with Loki, their gray tabby kitten, beneath that tree on Christmas day, we knew we were truly blessed.
Is this the beginning of a slippery slope? Are we getting too old for Christmas trees? Certainly not. I fully intend to get one next year and for many years to come. They probably won’t come from our friend’s farm, though. Instead we’ll return to one of the nearby garden centers, where I can inhale the tree’s aroma, feel the needles to make sure it’s fresh and not too prickly, spin it around and check for symmetry. And next year’s tree can be taller than ever – the sunroom will be loftier now that we’ve ripped out the old dropped ceiling with its dirty white paneling.
Moral of the story? It’s OK to break with holiday traditions now and then – the sky won’t fall. Just don’t make a habit of it. How about you? Did you break any holiday traditions this year? And how did that make you feel?