Okay people, for those of you who know me or are getting to know me from the blog, you probably are aware that Christmas is a big deal to me. I can't explain it, but I'm hooked on the holiday. If I were elected president, I'd probably declare Christmas a year-long celebration.
That said, I feel very strongly about one of the major symbols (albeit pagan) of the season: the Christmas tree. My tree rules are as follows:
1. The tree must be real. I have ALWAYS had a real Christmas tree, and after reading this article about the environmental and economic impact of real vs. fake trees, I felt less guilty about cutting down a tree that spent many years growing tall. I've also resolved to rent a chipper and make awesomely beneficial mulch from our tree, which will be used in around the blueberry patch.
Last year's Christmas tree was the biggest tree I've ever had. The thing was at least 9 feet tall and round...I mean, we're almost talking Griswold tree. Unfortunately, it was dead about a week before Christmas and it was all we could do to keep a few needles on the branches until December 26th when we tore that sucker down.
This year we were all gung-ho to cut down our own tree so that it was as fresh as possible (and resolved to actually water the darn thing) and we even found a local Christmas tree farm just a few miles from our house. Unfortunately, they'd only been growing trees for 4 years, so they were all about 4 feet tall. Very nice and good for local economy/sustainable/small carbon footprint/yadda yadda, but I've already succumbed to my yuppy enviro-guilt this Christmas, and the only way a 4-foot tree would work in our living room would be to put it on the coffee table on a stack of phone books. Not happening. So we paid the nice man for one of his pre-cut trees which had been trucked in from North Carolina, swallowed our guilt, and went home. I'm actually planning to go back to the tree lot this summer and tag a tree for us to cut down next year or the year after, depending on how fast they grow.
2. Ornaments are sentimenal, not stylish. I'm not sure when the trend of having, well, trendy Christmas trees got started, but I am not a big fan of matchy-matchy Christmas trees that coordinate perfectly with the living room decor and are full of non-descript glass balls in 2 colors and giant cascading ribbons, also in 2 colors. Plus, I am a color traditionalist when it comes to Christmas decorating--red and green, please, with a little gold and white thrown in here and there. No offense to anyone who has the HGTV look going on right now--I know I am in the minority. With the exception of a few random balls purchased last year from Walmart to help fill out our giganto tree, all of the ornaments we use were gifts or from our childhoods. I think it really hit home that I was married when I picked up my box of ornaments from my parents' house to take home to MY house.
I can honestly say that almost every ornament on our tree means something to us, and even though the tree is a bit sparse now, I'm looking forward to filling it up with Joe's ornaments, etc.
It's probably not a surprise then to know that I'm not a fan of the bow topper trend, either. They seem sort of impersonal to me. Now, I don't really care if you've got a star or an angel or a picture of Chuck Norris up there, but it should mean something. Here's ours:
The head of this angel came from a doll that actually belonged to my grandmother, who passed away when I was 3. She had a few of these dolls in her house and they are one of the very few memories I have of her. My mom and aunt had the dolls made into Christmas angels a few years ago and the wave of memory that I get when I look at her is overwhelming.
3. Presents go under the tree. This is big. We all can acknowledge that Christmas is mainly a holiday for the children, but nothing brings out the holiday spirit in even the biggest too-cool-for-Christmas grinches like a big ole box under the tree with their name on the tag. So as soon as they are wrapped, presents go in their rightful position where they act as temptation and up the excitement factor for everyone within view.
Sidebar: Presents are not to be opened before Christmas. Even when I was a kid, I felt like this was cheating. Opening Christmas presents on any other day cheapens them, in my opinion. Who cares if Santa comes on the 25th if I already have a giant haul? Now, not all presents go out before Christmas morning. Obviously there are some biggies that would be a dead giveaway, and there needs to be ample room for Santa's delivery. Growing up we had "hide-your-eyes" which usually came at the end of the Christmas gift-opening ceremonies, and were mostly gifts that were too big to wrap; ie, awesome.
And most importantly,
4. The tree is to be enjoyed. How many times throughout the year would it be nice to come home at the end of a long day and bask in the glow of a twinkling, magical present-magnet in the middle of the living room? It's so nice to sit and admire all of the mismatched ornaments and think about the people and times they represent. I try to do as many things in close proximity to the tree as possible. Like wrapping presents. Or blogging.