When I was a child my family would load up in the family car and head out of town looking for a suitable place along the highway to stop and cut our annual Christmas tree. Dad would find a spot, pull off the road, and then my sisters, my mother and I would trudge off through the snow after Dad looking for that perfect tree. Inevitably the tree we cut would be too tall to get in the house and would require much surgery back home. But always when we stood there in the woods, knee deep in snow, we were certain the tree was just right or even a bit too short.
Living in a major urban area makes it hard to find trees to cut down for Christmas. It would take the most brazen of folks to go into the nearby Pacific Spirit Park to nick a tree. Some folks use fake trees – artificial plastic or metal contraptions. While I won’t say never, an artificial strikes me as a poor replacement for the real thing. Other folks advocate potted trees. This is the green alternative. I guess that’s okay, but after a few years one is likely to run out of places to plant these trees. Besides, every try to lug a ten foot tall potted spruce into your home? Even in the city I prefer a cut tree. But now my forays into tree hunting takes me to the urban tree lot.
There are a lot of options in the city: school yard lots, charity sales, supermarket trees, and garden shop trees. Over the years we’ve tried them all: from bargain basement Charlie Brown trees (hint, get three) to finely cultivated garden shop beauties. Some years we have the tree up Dec. 1, others we wait till a just a week before Christmas. Some trees have dried out so hard the leaves rain off when it is time to take it down. Others have stayed fresh and fragrant through the full 12 days of Christmas into the New Year.
Big trees strain our mechanical skills as we struggle to ensure the tree stays upright and stable. Who hasn’t had at least one tree come crashing down when least expected? My father used to bring galvanized buckets home from his fish boat, place the hulk of a too big tree into the bucket, and then brace with river stones. That and the fishing lines anchored into wall and ceiling ensured the tree stayed put. I’ve made recourse to heavy test nylon fishing lines myself from time to time, but prefer a tree that can stand upright without guy-wires. Not surprisingly, the smaller the tree the easier to stand without bracing!
Christmas trees are a delight. With their roots in pagan European winter festivals one need not be a Christian to enjoy a Christmas tree.