Every year, more than a handful of people laugh at how early I want put up our Christmas tree. Including my husband. Wait… did I say tree? I meant trees. Yes, two of them…
Written and photographed by lifestyle editor Rebecca Frick
This season while we were unboxing and setting up tree number one, I started to think we should shake things up a bit. What if we kept the second one in the box and cut down a tree instead?
Growing up here in Canada, one of the most memorable parts of the Christmas season was bundling up and piling into our station wagon to head out to the pre-cut tree lots with my family. I like to think them as the original pop-up shops. In the weeks leading up to Christmas you’d see them starting to take over the mall parking lots with beacons of colorful (and usually poorly strung up) Christmas lights revealing their location. The trees would be tied up and frozen solid. Either that, or they’d be flat as a pancake after being piled up and trucked in from who knows where. Even with some serious scrutinizing on site, it was anyone’s guess as to whether the one you chose was going to be full… or even straight.
But off we’d go back home with our chosen tree and we’d all cross our frozen fingers that we got a good one. My dad would drag it inside and lean it up against a wall in the corner of the basement and it would slowly thaw out over the next few days (and reveal it’s shape in the process). Sometimes we’d have a real beauty, and other times… let’s just say it took a lot of creative rotating to get a good side to face forward.
Some years the tree would stay green and perky, and other years it would drop piles of needles in the days leaning up to Christmas. No matter what, there was nothing better than the smell of pine or spruce floating through the house! Amazing. I swore I’d always have a real tree. But… about 15 years ago my husband (then, boyfriend) convinced me that an artificial tree was the way to go. I wasn’t so sure, but as a person that likes to get the tree up as early as possible, I was intrigued. I agreed there would be no harm in looking at artificial trees, and I have to say I was impressed. The trees on display were perfectly full. You could choose your preferred height and variety, and they were even manufactured with just the right amount of brown tipped needles. And the fact that they were pre lit?! Come on!
What about that smell though? Nothing that a pine air freshener couldn’t solve, right? Well, not really. But even though I couldn’t have the smell of a real tree, I gave in… and our new ‘tree’ looked great. So great, we got another one a few years later
for our second living room. Every year after that, we’d haul the trees up from the basement (earlier and earlier), and with a few quick clicks it they would be ready to decorate. No fuss and no needles.
But as a kid, isn’t the magic of Christmas in the fuss? I know it is for my kids. In their minds, the earlier we can get a batch of sugar cookies in the oven and cobble together a gingerbread house the better. And don’t kids love all of these things because of the process? The mess, the tasting, the frosting and the decorating? I realized this year, that the same goes for the tree. Whether it’s going to a tree lot, or a tree farm or out into the bush with a permit there’s adventure involved in getting in car with the people you love (and a thermos of hot chocolate) and going to find ‘your’ tree.
So… we did it. I’m not going to lie… when we got 15 minutes into our 45 minute drive our oldest asked “isn’t there somewhere we could have done this closer to home?”… and when we closed in on our destination my husband got irritated that I couldn’t simply point out the exact location where we should stop… and when we finally pulled over, my youngest insisted we get into the hot chocolate immediately. Magical, right? That’s the fuss, though. It’s all the little things – good or bad – that create the memories that will last a lifetime. Once we got out of the truck and started our search for the tree we all had fun. There wasn’t a ton of snow, but that meant weather was great. The kids ran ahead and assessed each tree we passed wondering if it was the one. Once we found it the excitement became about who was going to cut it down, and then who would pull it back to the truck on the sled. And of course there was more talk about when we’d be getting into that hot chocolate. “On the way home”, I said.
Back at home we got the tree set up and the kids couldn’t stop talking about how cool it was that we found this tree ourselves. Even the decorating was more fun than last year. I think we’ve got a new tradition on our hands!