Sunday, December 21, 2014

Oh Christmas Tree

I'm joining in again today with Sian's Christmas club, where we share the story of Christmas.

I often chuckle to myself when I think of the tradition of putting up a Christmas tree each year.  Think about it.  We move furniture around to accommodate placing a tree in our most used room of the house, the living room.  Then we spend hours unpacking little decorations that we store lovingly all year long.  Then we spend even more time putting all of these delicate little beauties onto each branch.  In a few weeks time we dismantle all of this, only to do it all again next year.  It really is bizarre but I wouldn't have it any other way.

When I was growing up, we always had a real Christmas tree.  I think that the majority of people did in those days of the late 60's and early 70's.  We would put the tree up around the 20th of December. We lived in an apartment, which was very dry.  My mother always said that the tree dried out fast and so it was better to wait until close to Christmas to put it up so that we could keep it up through the holidays until January 2nd.  As you can imagine, the tree selection was getting pretty slim this close to Christmas day and so we were known to usually have a typical Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  Each year we would laugh at how close we had actually come to Charlie's tree.

Susan with her dollhouse. 1964

Then there was the Christmas light issue.  My mother was a safety bug.  Yes, she was the mom who wouldn't put the lid of a can into the garbage without making a loud family announcement.  "I've just put a can lid in the garbage can.  Don't put your hand in there or you'll slice your hand off".  It was a pretty dramatic statement when in reality it may have resulted in a little cut on the finger. I guess that you have already figured out that there were to be no Christmas lights on our dried out Christmas tree.  The fire risks were too high in my mother's mind.  Not only were we risking our lives but the lives of all of the other tenants in our building!  In my mother's defence, the big lights did get hot in those days, although I'm sure if we just had them on while we were in the room, we all would have avoided the fiery death that my mother feared.  All our neighbours in the building had lights. ( I have noticed in close inspection of these two early photos that there are lights on these trees!  What changed? Was this earlier apartment less dry?)

Susan and Me on my first Christmas. 1964

What our tree lacked in actual beauty, it more than made up for in charm.  We had a mix of beautiful glass ornaments along with some handmade school ornaments.  There were a few new ornament purchases through the years but all in all, our tree pretty much looked the same from year to year.  The decorating always began with the signature silver garland of this era and ended with silver tinsel on the branches.  I was the kid that threw handfuls of tinsel on the branches.  There was none of this placing one small strand on each branch.  My mother was fine with this.  Our family tree was to be as her children wanted it to look.  Looking back my favourite memory of our tree was it's smell.  Oh the smell of a real Christmas tree!  For me, that is the smell of Christmas.

Andrew's "cheetah" under the tree.  1974

Flash forward to my grown-up years.  In my early years with Rob we had a real tree.  I insisted on it because for me, that was what Christmas was all about.  Each year Rob would try to convince me that we should buy an artificial tree.  He grew up with an artificial tree and said that they were very convenient and easy.  About three years in I finally caved.  Maybe it was the year we had Diane.  I would have been a young, tired mother of a two month old baby.  My resistance must have been down. And so we went along year to year with our five foot perfectly shaped fake tree.  Most years I would at some point through the holidays reminisce about the joys of a real tree and the smell of Christmas that we were missing out on.

One year early into our new millennium, I whined particularly loud and long for a real tree.  I was relentless, if not even a bit childish.  ;) I even mentioned it to some of Rob's co-workers who then guilted him about being such a scrooge.  They told him that he needed to get his wife a real Christmas tree.  Hey, peer pressure worked and off we went with a grumbling Rob to get our real tree.  I was beyond excited and even the girls, who were in junior high at this point,  seemed interested about this new tree experience.

Our tree came home around the middle of December and sat in the backyard until the 20th of the month, when we were ready to decorate it...  not too early, so we could enjoy it through the whole holiday season.  Oh it was beautiful!  It had such a wonderful shape.  Almost perfect but just imperfect enough to be real nature.  I lovingly decorated it.  That was the year that I decided on a red and gold theme, other than the special ornaments that held meaning.  After the decorating was done I sat back and looked at my amazing tree with it's twinkling white lights.  But yes, the best part was the beautiful smell of Christmas that filled the room.

Our real Christmas tree documented in the scrapbook.  2001

Flash forward to the next day.  Suddenly there was the small sound of sneezing.  Just a "kerchew" here and a "kerchew" there.  These sounds were not only coming from Rob, but Lisa too.  Then there was the sudden blowing of noses and that red glazed look of their eyes.  Hmm  Maybe that was why Rob was grumbling so much about getting the real tree.  Oh yeah, there was that one allergy test five years previous that did say something about a reaction to Spruce, Fir and Evergreen... you know those Christmas tree trees.   Then I remembered that one year that I bought a "spruce" candle to burn through the season and had to throw it out because Lisa (my seasonal allergy girl) was reacting.  What kind of mother was I?  It is one thing to make my husband deal with allergies but not my little Lisa!  I was a monster!  ;)  Rob and Lisa struggled through Christmas with lots of kleenex and come first thing in the morning of December 26th, I undecorated the tree and Rob dragged it to the curb.  But for those few short days I spent lots of time secretly admiring my tree and smelling that amazing aroma.... until the two sickies would catch me and scowl at me and my tree.  ;)

And so the story goes that we went back to our artificial plastic tree.  But, I stopped whining about it. I still get my "Christmas smell" fix.  Each year I go to the greenhouse and spend some time in the "fresh evergreen" cooler section.  Rob stays outside and waits for me.  Also, our grocery store sells Christmas trees and has them all standing outside at the door.  I never pass by without taking the time to stop and smell a tree.  I always tell Rob that it is a good thing that I love him.  If not for him,  not only would I have a real tree each year but there would be about four cats batting at the branches and at least one would be trying to climb to the top.

Lisa and Diane in front of our fake tree. 1996

Thank you Sian for hosting the Christmas Club.  It was so much fun.



  1. Very nice post and fun to see those old photos and notice some ornaments that are now on my tree. As for the lights on our earlier trees, I think that the light bulbs were encased by a flower-shaped metal protector which kept the heat of the bulb contained thus avoiding that fiery death Mom feared. LOL I love a real tree too but not the mess of the needles or the high cost they seem to charge now.

  2. Oh, your photos are beautiful! I enjoyed reading this so very much. I love the smell of a real tree too: I think we got ours a little early this year - it's looking very dry already! Thank you for coming clubbing today Jen..a very happy Christmas to you and yours from all of us

  3. Wonderful photos, I can remember the worry over the lights too.

  4. Lovely photos. Shame about the allergy! I love the bit about you getting your tree smell fix in the shops!

  5. Great photos and such a shame about the allergies! Hope you have a wonderful Christmas this year!

  6. This was fun, especially the photos. Merry Christmas my friend-may you have "lights"!

  7. I love the photos, great memories.

  8. I have greatly enjoyed your post, with those wonderful photos. Hoping you get a real tree experience again some time :). We bought LED lights last year and enjoy how cool they are to the touch. My safety conscious adult son is amazed how in his German family candles are still lit on trees.

  9. I remember how hot those old lights would get - my grandparents had bubble lights where the liquid was heated and expanded. Wonderful photos - glad you still get your real Christmas tree smell fix.

  10. Oh Jen...I just love those early photos of you and season with your real tree. Amazing quality and clarity. Loved reading your story. xx


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