Growing up, we ALWAYS had a live Christmas tree. It was magical (and hilarious) to pick out said tree from the lot with the rest of my family, bring it home, let the dog pee on the trunk, then get it in the stand and inside the house. Thus, the decorating process commenced. And let me tell you, it was a process. Two to three days were devoted to lighting and decorating the tree and house. This decorating marathon was usually accompanied by the sounds of Christmas albums playing on my parents’ record player. The Carpenters’ Christmas album brings back fond memories for me to this day.
The Lighting Process – Something Akin to The Griswold’s Christmas Vacation
Once the tree was in the house, my mom and I would string lights around the branches, lighting that sucker up like the Griswold’s house. This takes hours because the lights have to be wrapped around the branches from the inside out, not just haphazardly strung around the outside of the tree. Then come all of the ornaments. Now my mom has been collecting ornaments for 40+ years. You can only imagine the selection process of which ornaments would go on the tree that year. Obviously, the very sentimental ones made the cut every year, but let me tell you, there were some nail-biting moments involved in ornament selection. The tree was lit, the house decorated and sometimes, my dad even put icicle lights on the outside of the house. One memorable year, he decorated the shrubbery with multi-colored lights. My mom was horrified. It was awesome. My mom has a smaller artificial tree that she has put in the kitchen before but the centerpiece – the MAIN tree – has always been a live 10-foot tree.
When I started dating my husband some 15+ years ago, we would get our own tree. Obviously – when Christmas is your girlfriend / fiance / wife’s favorite holiday, you MUST have a tree and decorations. The first few years we dated and were married, we reveled in the “Christmas honeymoon phase” – picking out a live tree from the lot, shopping for lights and ornaments and spending a Friday or Saturday night decorating our little tree while listening to Christmas carols and drinking hot chocolate spiked with Bailey’s. Eventually we moved into a bigger home with higher ceilings which obviously required a bigger tree – we went from a 6-foot tree to a 9-foot tree. My husband was not so excited about that. But what’s a gal to do?
Fast forward to year 4 or 5 of marriage. He’s aggravated because he has to haul in a tree that I picked out – that may or may not be WAY TOO BIG for the space allotted. What can I say – I LOVE big trees and I cannot lie. Then listen and watch me struggle to get 1,000+ lights on the tree – again a 9-foot tree needs WAY more lights than a six-footer. Duh. So, one year, he went to Target on a Saturday and came home with a 7.5-foot artificial tree. It was okay. But it looked too small and too short for the space and it didn’t smell. I purchased lots of Christmas tree scented Glade candles that year.
Do you like ‘em live? Or do you geaux for faux?
The artificial tree purchase began our great debate every year – I wanted a real tree. He just wanted to pull the fake one out of the attic and be done with it. Over the years, we have alternated depending on what we have going on around the holidays. The first Christmas after our son was born, I pulled the artificial tree out and set it up. Done. The last two years, we have taken our son to the tree lot and purchased a live tree that we absolutely loved. Blue Frasier Firs from River’s Bend Farms are amazing. We’ve purchased our trees from the Pollard’s every year we’ve gotten a live tree and I’ve never once been disappointed. If you are really lucky and the timing is perfect, you’ll find a tree that still has snow on it as it’s just been off-loaded from a truck direct from the farm! They smell amazing and I am always a bit sad to take all of the ornaments and lights of off it and haul it to the curb on January 6.
This year, since our original artificial tree died and I’m not too keen on trying to light and decorate a 9-foot live tree whilst 9 months pregnant, I’ve ordered a new artificial tree and will set that up . I just need to be able to pull it out of the box, put it together and be done with it. The ornaments won’t take too long to put on. Next year, we’ll be buying a live tree.
Pros versus Cons
I know the obvious cons of a live tree – fire hazard, surprise critters living in said tree, needles shedding ALL over the house and the possibility of it dying before Christmas. But I feel the pros definitely outweigh the cons. These pros are more about the traditions you set with your family – picking out the tree, decorating it, lighting it for the first time and then every night after that. Waking up to the scent of that beautiful tree on a cold morning. Not to mention the memories and nostalgia of it all.