Thursday, December 21, 2023

To Tree or Not to Tree, that is the Question

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Okay, it’s a fake question. I’ve always had a tree, even back when Ross and I were living together in DC (much to my parents’ chagrin) and we scavenged one from a lot near his law school that had them for suspiciously low prices.

 

In fact, a Christmas tree saved my marriage! About a decade in, Ross and I were having some real problems. Like, talk to lawyers problems. A couple weeks before Christmas that year, we went out to buy a fresh tree with our kids, then five and four. As we got home and began untying the tree from the top of the car, it started to snow, and the children were dancing around with excitement. 

 

The magic of the moment didn’t heal all wounds – there was still three years of couples counseling ahead – but we both realized we didn’t want to break up our little family, and we acted on that. We made it until death did us part. That’s a pretty big lift for a conifer.

 

So yes, I want a tree. I love to see one in the bay window of the living room, loaded with decorations, which, since the kids have moved out, have been veering toward a color-coordinated, Instagram style (as opposed to the plethora of macaroni, jigsaw piece and egg carton ornaments that came home year after year from school.) And we’ve always, always gotten a real tree – let’s face it, when you live in the Pine Tree State, it’s kind of a given.

 

But here’s the rub. In the past, picking out the tree was a family affair. Then it dwindled to me and the girls, then to me and one daughter, and now the only help I have is Bud DesRocher, the guy at the Lions tree lot who trims the trunk and loads it on the car for me. When I get it home, my assistants consist of two Shih Tzus and an elderly cat (who, by the way, is the reason we stopped using tinsel fifteen years ago. I’ll leave the details to your imagination.)

 

Getting it off the car roof isn’t too bad – I have a Honda Accord, thankfully, not a fifteen-foot-tall SUV. I’ve got a barn coat and deerskin gloves, so I can even hump it into the house. But have you ever tried to screw a real evergreen into a tree holder all by yourself? Dear readers, it’s like trying to clap with one hand. There are a limited number of tasks in this world that absolutely require two people, and setting up a live tree is one of them. 

 

Last year, my beautiful balsam sat in a bucket on the front porch for almost three weeks before Youngest came home and helped me install it in the living room. And no, it didn’t look like a cool natural outdoor decoration – it looked like a drunk had abandoned it between the tub of ice melt and my front door. 

 

I’ve told nearly all my friends the time has come for me to bow to reality and buy an artificial tree that I can set up and take down solo. Have I done this yet? No, I have not. Will I spend the next five Christmases saying the same thing and still getting a real tree? Undoubtedly. Or maybe I can go all the way back to the German custom of putting up and decorating the tree on Christmas Eve. I bet the kids can get one real cheap on their way over here at 5pm on December 24th

 

How about you, dear readers? Real, faux, or no tree?


Photos by JillWellington, Chance Agrella and Pexels, (Feerangestock.com)

128 comments:

  1. I have a small faux tree. When I moved into an apartment for a few years, there really wasn't room for tree on the floor but I wanted something. So I have a three or is it four foot tree that fit on my old trunk in the apartment. Its is skinny and just enough for me. It came with lights and doesn't drop needles. I do miss the smell of a real tree but I can always but some greens in a vase if I really want the house to smell like Christmas.

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    1. Deana, when my mom got a faux tree after all the kids had left home, she always had a can of pine-scented air spray on the mantle. If anyone moaned about the scent of a real tree, she's spray the heck out of the room!

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    2. Julia, I have candles for that same reason!

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    3. I'm new to your blog -I live in the panhandle of Idaho at a senior apartment complex, no live trees allow so I have a small faux tree with tiny lights. I add extra small light and ornaments. But no Christmas smell. I buy just made wrath from a local gal and it smells beautiful. But I still miss a real tree. Merry Christmas everyone. EdieB

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  2. Well, real is nice . . . and, for many years, real was our choice. But we were younger, the children were tiny, and we could manage all that went with having a real tree without too much difficulty.

    Artificial is nice, too . . . especially when it's become so much easier to manage than the hassle that goes along with having a real tree. So, artificial these days.

    The way I look at it, it's not a decision between a real tree or an artificial one. It's a decision between having a tree or not having one. And having a tree [even if it is an artificial one] wins every time . . . .

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    1. Yes, Joan! Elisabeth

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    2. We started cutting our own tree from a tree farm when my now middle aged kids were in pre-school. It was a fun and traditional family activity. My husband would often get very grouchy around that time, cutting the tree, carrying it in the house, setting it up. It wasn't until we move to the foothills that we discovered he was allergic to pine sap! By that time, the kids were old enough to help me do it instead and we were all much happier!

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  3. No tree here.

    As a kid, we had a fake one in our Toronto apartment until I was about 8. Then my parents decided to stop putting it up. I do remember the gorgeous German ornaments my mom had bought years ago. Sadly, my dad threw them all the tree & decorations when he moved into a retirement home in 2015.

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    1. Oh, Grace, my dad did the same thing to my mother's German glass ornaments - gave them to the church's white elephant sale after she passed away. Decorating for the holiday was evermore not his thing, and he never even thought to ask any of us - my sister or brother or I would have loved to have had them.

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    2. Diana here: Oh dear. Perhaps it may be a good idea for us to add Christmas ornaments to the will in order to ensure that our children or our legacy will be able to inherit our Christmas ornaments ?

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    3. JULIA: Yes, I wish my dad had asked me whether I wanted them, along with other family keepsakes, which he also tossed out. Christmas decorations were not his thing.

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    4. Power is back on, now I can comment!
      When we were married - Nov 12, 1977 - someone with more money than brains, gave us 3 boxes of the most beautiful glass ornaments, and 1 box of tacky but glass ornaments. We put them on our first tree. It was a horrible lonely Christmas but that is another story. When it was time to take down the tree, he who harrumphs now, but didn't then, took the lazy man's load, and pushed the stack unto a too-small shelf in the closet. Right - you guessed it. They all fell down and broke - except for any of the tacky ones, and one of the most beautiful ones.
      He has spent years trying to replace them. I had to finally tell him, it was all right....

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  4. We don't put a tree up anymore. I would like to but my husband has so much junk there is no room to put one up anymore. So I bought a ceramic tree with a star on top and took my husband's little table he got to put next to his chair and put the beautiful tree skirt I've had for years on the table and set up the little tree on it. I buy small gifts and put them around the little tree. A plus to this is that the cats don't bother this tree.

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    1. Anything the cats stay out of is a real bonus, Paula!

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  5. I discovered paper trees and they are perfect for me.

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    1. PAPER? Going to look this up... What a brilliant idea.

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    2. When I was 6 years old my father was in the Navy and was on a tour with his ship called West Pac (Western Pacific) and he wouldn't be home for Christmas. My mom made the cutest paper tree which was designed to be multi-dimensional (when you spread out the layers it looked like a real tree) with little hand made decorations and shipped it to him. I remember seeing it and being so impressed.

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    3. I just went down the rabbit hole looking at images of paper trees; now I want one for my library - it would be the perfect place, right?

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  6. Love Christmas trees, Julia. If I may ask, do they replant tree saplings or recycle trees ? I used to get a live tree.

    Unfortunately, in my neighborhood, the recycling trucks will pick up live trees on the 30th of December, while makes me sad because I love having the tree up on my birthday, which falls in early January.

    Thinking of getting a artificial tree for next year.

    And today is the first day of winter!

    Diana

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    1. Happy Solstice, Diana! Yes, in Maine the tree farms regularly replant, so every section that's harvested is replanted again. The real trees in my town have a couple destinations: you can bring them to the transfer station and a local goat farm collects a bunch (evidently pine boughs are great for goats!) and the rest are chipped to make the mulch that goes onto all the municipal flower beds.

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    2. Diana here: that is wonderful, Julia! Thank you for sharing.

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    3. Happy winter solstice DIANA, and to all the REDS and readers!

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    4. Any goat or sheep farmer will thank you for trees as long as they are CLEAN. The animals love them, and need/use the vitamin C in the final parts of their pregnancies. We loved left-over trees, pumpkins and excess zucchini.

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  7. We have a real tree (purchase except for that winter of 1973 when we were living in Manhattan and took one in from the street that had been abandoned by someone traveling) except last year when we moved from NH to the Pine Tree State and decided to get a very tiny real tree that we could plant to remember a first year. And now back to the Rotary club in our case.

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    1. For me, it's been a nearby EMS, Maren, but by the second Sunday of Advent, when I was able to go get one, they were already out!

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  8. Only real, although we've haven't gone out to the farm and actually cut one for some years. This year we found one (on the 14th) that's barely taller than me and I love it. And Martin, bless his placid heart, likes to sleep under the tree but doesn't mess with the gifts, wires, or ornaments in the least (although he is interested when I refill the water).

    I also love how the tree in the snow jump-started you and Ross healing your marriage.

    Can't you call on a close-by friend or neighbor to help with the setting-up task? It definitely needs two people, but only for a couple of minutes.

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    1. Edith, at this point, Youngest will be here on Friday night, and I can just have her help me. That's assuming my power is back on my tomorrow...

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    2. I'm glad that Martin enjoys sleeping under the Christmas tree and has no interest in messing with it or any decorations!

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    3. Charlene Miller-WilsonDecember 21, 2023 at 1:57 PM

      My cats are good with the live trees too, but some loved to drink the water from the stand. I try tying the skirt up high and close but Mollie cleverly pulls it aside. Several cats in the past also slept under the tree. Looked like catzilla next to the creche!

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  9. In the early years of our marriage, we bought live trees. I mean REALLY alive trees. The ones that come with a root bulb. We planted those in our yard after the holidays. Several have died and been cut down, but two remain. Then we went to artificial. Then a smaller artificial. For several years, we did no trees. Now I have my artificial Charlie Brown tree, which I'm sorry to say, I have yet to put out. Maybe this afternoon.

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    1. I've done the live root ball tree a few times, Annette, and had NO luck keeping them alive! My respect for tree farmers went up a lot after those experiences.

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    2. The live trees that will grow here in north Texas are not all that pretty, although we did try that a couple of times when Kayti was small. No survivors!

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  10. I suspect that at 5 pm on December 24, vendors will be very aware of the desperation of the customers present and will scalp accordingly. For a REALLY cheap tree, wait unitl 5 pm on Decemebr 25...

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    1. Well, we always celebrate the Twelve Days, Jerry, so getting one on the first day of Christmas would be appropriate!

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  11. We got an artificial tree some years ago. I haven’t missed falling needles and the fire hazard at all. Ours went up last weekend, but the ornaments are still sitting beside it in a big box. Maybe today?
    Christmas is more about baking and cooking for us. Love giving homemade goodies instead of presents. There are fresh wreaths on both doors but that’s it.
    We’ve been to Lessons and Carols and will go to mass Christmas morning. No white Christmas this year either, but tha wasn’t my doing.

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    1. At this point, I'll be very happy if I have a LIGHT Christmas, Ann!

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    2. Oh Julia, no electricity? Hope you can cook and keep warm. Otherwise pack up you’re brood and come on down!

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    3. Julia, how can you be commenting with no power. We lost ours this morning, just as the coffee was poured and it has just come back 3pm, even though they were saying midnight. It means fish chowder for supper rather than 2 hamburgers with one bun - guess I need to replenish the freezer - on the barbeque. The weather people, who have no idea what is going on, say after 4 days of torrential rain (septic tank is backed up), now are offering us, flash freeze and a gazillion inches of snow! There is a strong possibility we will be home again (alone) for Christmas! No tree up yet...

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    4. Margo, Celia took me in, and her power was restored late last night. (They have a generator, so never lost heat, lights, the frig, etc.)

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  12. My experience with Christmas trees is limited but colorful.

    The first Christmas tree was at my dear friend Jeanne's house when we were high school seniors. Jeanne and I still reminisce about it! The fact that her strict parents allowed her Jewish friend to come over and join the annual tree decorating party is something I still marvel at and appreciate today. How many outsiders join in decorating family trees?

    The next wonderful experience took place when Jonathan was little. Close friends own a huge farm and we all went out into their back lots looking for a tree, which they cut down and brought home. The day was brisk and sunny. There was snow on the ground and we all laughed and just enjoyed the day together.

    The last Christmas tree experience was several years ago when I was a realtor. I sold an enormous mansion to people who became friends of ours. The owners were asked to include their home in a Christmas house tour. My friends agreed but were panicking. There was a big artificial tree in the basement and they decided to use that but were truly derisive of the fact that it was artificial. I promised to come over and help. We got the Frankenstein tree set up and decorated while I recited "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to their astonishment and mirth. We did have fun!

    There is nothing that compares to putting up the family Christmas tree. I wish you all the merriest holiday season ever.

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    1. Thank you, Judy! And I had to laugh at your mansion story - my sister is a Realtor and I've come to see how many of them bend over backwards (and then do flips!) to help their clients.

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  13. We had a tree growing up. At first I think we had a real tree at the dawn of my ability to remember but we ended up doing a fake tree soon after and then until my mom was gone. By that point it was a table top fake tree instead of the big "floor model".

    Now, there's no tree or decorations of any kind. I do not have anywhere near the level of interest or ambition to waste time putting stuff up only to then have to take it down. If that makes me a a Scrooge, then Bah Humbug it is!

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    1. Jay, I would simply claim I'm going back to the original New England way of celebrating Christmas. No one can fault you for being historically accurate!

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  14. What about picking out and buying a tree from Bud, and asking him to set it aside for the kids to pick up on Christmas eve? I am a real tree lover, but recognize the impossibility of putting one up on your own. Alternative is to find a bunch of friends and ask them over for a meal of hot soup and tree erection party.

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    1. Anon, that's a wonderful idea and one I may well use next year!

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  15. False tree for us. Easy to put up, easy to take down and pack away, and the ones they have these days look pretty real. Also, a factor that mattered to us when we started out (in early 70s) was the fact that it saved trees. On the days or week after Xmas, the sight of all those wasted trees really was discouraging, no matter how many woods were nearby full of thriving new live trees. (In the early days of our marriage we lived near a wooded area and even had quite a few pine trees in our yard.)

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    1. Elizabeth, I hear you. There's so much more done now to actually use the old trees; as mulch, as windbreaks, as clean fill, and in our town, for the goat farm's stock!

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    2. Julia, I'm so glad to hear that. Thanks. These things are always encouraging to learn.

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    3. Our city picks them up and mulches them for the city parks.

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  16. I am partial to the tiny desk-top fake-tree-with-twinkling-lights a favourite colleague gave me years ago to brighten our office. It can be powered off a USB port on my laptop, and a one-handed blind monkey could put it "up", and -- bonus, it stores easily in its 6-inch storage box. I realize this wouldn't cut it for putting presents under or for bringing magic into the house for the children, but for an older-adult house it's perfect!

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    1. Amanda, I'm laughing at "one handed blind monkey" so hard...

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  17. Oh boy, real trees were a very big deal in my family growing up. Even when we lived in Hawaii or Italy, my dad was very insistent. Real trees only. He didn't care if it was expensive and the size of a tiny bush, we were getting it. So that's the level of tree obsession I grew up with.

    I married a man who was . . . not so into Christmas trees or real trees. For years we made do with a really pretty garland strung with lights. The presents looked very pretty under it. All my wheedling worked and for a few years we had real trees. One year he actually carried it home on his back from the hardware store b/c we had no car. So I had to admit he had committed!

    But last year, we waited till late in the hopes it wouldn't start dying before Christmas and we got an awful, awful dud. Pine needles everywhere and it made a mess. I guess it had just been cut and set in the lot for a long time. So this year, I broke down and said 'yes, we can get the fake tree.' I felt like if I wanted a real tree, I was going to be stuck buying it and putting it up on my own and I know my limits. Marriage is all about compromise, right? I did insist on a small one b/c I didn't want it to take up room during the year and there's a part of me that hopes maybe we'll switch again to a real tree someday ;-) It's nice when it's all decorated and it was low stress, but it's not the same. Maybe when the youngest is taller than me and can help hold up a tree, I can enlist some help. . .

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    1. I'm feeling the same way about possibly getting an artificial tree, Jill - I have lots of rooms in my old farmhouse, and if I want to also get a live tree, of if one falls into my lap, I can always have one in the living room and one in the family room.

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  18. by the time trees make it to Key West, many if not most of the needles have come off. So we have a cute little artificial guy. I do miss tromping through the snow with the kids to find the right one, but see the earlier blog this week about traditions--they change whether we like it or not!

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    1. Lucy, all of us are going to be quoting "Tradition is just peer pressure from dead people" for the rest of our lives!

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  19. It's funny what small wonders can save a marriage, isn't it? For us, it was a popular song neither of us had heard before, sung at a holiday choral. Glad you and Ross found your way back to one another, Julia.

    As much as I love the sticky pine needle mess, water leaking all over hardwood floors, trying to make the tree sit vertically in the stand, and the prickliness of the needles, I am Team Faux. My very first adult Christmas in 1970 someone gave us a 3' tree, box of ornaments, topper, and stand, and I still have it. It was "Christy's tree", because the gift came just a couple weeks after she was born. In the 1980s I found a nicer 7' tall artificial tree at 75% off the day after Christmas, and it's sitting in our living room right now. It's so old that you have to add lights, and it sheds as many needles as a cut tree, but I can even haul it up from the basement by myself, if I have to. And I usually do.

    The little tree stayed in its storage spot this year, since Luna the boisterous Bernese Mountain Dog is going to wait for Santa here this year. Why tempt her with a tree she could pick up and take with her?

    The only live tree we've had for a long time was a Norway Spruce in 1985, small enough that we set it on a table. Steve dug a hole for it before Christmas, and we planted it around New Year's. That tree is now 35' tall in the backyard of our old house. We wanted to do that this year but we didn't get our acts together with me in bed with the flu for two weeks. Maybe 2024.

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    1. Well done on keeping a root-ball tree alive, Karen! And yes, no Berner needs the temptation of an excitingly twinkly "dog toy" in the house. I'm fortunate in that both my Shih Tzus and my elderly cat seem to think the tree is a highly-decorated water dish in the front room.

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    2. The key to keeping them alive is making sure they stay watered, and to dig the hole before the ground freezes. A period of gradual returning it to the outdoors cold, then "heeling it in" with some dirt to protect it until the spring when it can be properly planted. And the hole needs to be wide and deep, twice as much as you think it does.

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  20. I no longer have any kind of Christmas tree. One of my best tree memories is the year after the fire and we were in our new house, one with a cathedral ceiling. That year we went all out and got a huge tree. I'm not sure we meant to get such a big one but then there we were at the tree farm and we all loved that one. I think we still had to cut some off the bottom and we had to send my son to the store to get more lights, but it was truly beautiful. From the road it looked like the tree was 2 floors tall. I even suggested we get another, wider tree to put on the basement level so it would look like a 3-story tree, but no one else seemed to be in the mood for doing that.

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    1. Laughing at the idea of your three-story tree, Judi. That sounds like an irresistible visual joke to me!

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  21. From Celia: I’m going to share the truth everyone. I believe in Christmas. I believe that the tree goes up on the 24rd or 24th and comes down on Twelfth Night ( or soon thereafter). But age does factor in as does staying home or celebrating with our family. So there have been years recently where a wreath has played its part. But in 2021 as I crept out of our lockdown to do a little Christmas shopping I stopped by Whole Foods and there standing outside was a tiny forest of Fraiser fur trees. And very reasonably priced too. I have a new tradition, off to WhF after Thanksgiving, check out the trees, choose and pay, load into the car. This year Youngest and I were having a day out so I have willing help. Now the tree is still outside awaiting glorification and it survived our storm. It’s a little tree, maybe four foot high but I love it and that’s all that matters.

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    1. Can confirm, I'm looking at the tree through the glass deck doors right now!

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  22. From Celia: VERY HAPPY SOLSTICE everyone. Light bright lights or rings of fire tonight to coax back the light.

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    1. Oh thanks for the reminder of the Winter Solstice Celia!! I forgot until you mentioned it. It is kinda nice having less daylight - it is a good excuse for our early to bed routine!

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  23. I am a real tree person. I like to keep ours up until Epiphany. However neither of us is getting younger so next year I think a much shorter tree on a table, Easier to set up and better on the knees. I have friends who have beautiful artificial trees but I am not ready for that. I’m glad, Julia, that moment with the tree and the snow and your girls helped start the marriage healing. Suzette Ciancio

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    1. Thank you, Suzette. There really is magic in Christmas, as it turns out.

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  24. I have always wanted a real tree. Sadly, when I was growing up, Mom absolutely refused. The Hubby is firmly in the "faux tree" camp as well. So I make do with the tree my best friend gave us for a wedding present (27 years and still going, despite shedding a ton of needles every year going both up and down) and a balsam-scented candle.

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    1. Liz, is it a live tree in a pot?

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    2. Liz, you can do a look that's popular in my area - a real tree on the porch, either very simply decorated or not at all. No worries about falling needles, and if you keep it plain it's a "nature" decoration all the way through January...

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    3. Anonymous, no. It's a faux tree.

      Julia, tempting, but what I really want is that fir-tree scent through my house. The candle will have to do. Oddly enough, what The Hubby objects to is the falling needles - but our faux tree is so old it probably drops at least as many needles as a live tree would. And it does it twice, ones when we put it up and again when we take it down! LOL

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    4. The needles have never really bothered me, Liz, but we have wooden floors and short pile rugs, so it's always been easy to vacuum them all up after Twelfth Night.

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  25. Julia, does the tree lot or where ever you buy your tree have a delivery and set up service? My daughter buys a tree every year and takes advantage of their service. Some places charge a minimal fee and some provide it free with purchase. Also ask if they give a senior discount, some places do.

    Another question - what kind of tree? Fir, spruce, pine?

    Real vs fake: both have advantages. For me the real trees smell wonderful.

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    1. Balsam and Douglas spruce seems to be the most common type in Maine, Anon, although I don't know if that's true of cut-your-own farms, because we never did those. I've never heard to the delivery and set up service, and it sounds terribly useful!

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  26. I vote for C... wait until the last minute and have help... or go to their place for Xmas.
    If I DID do a Xmas tree, I confess I might opt for an array of branches cut from the many conifers in my garden and decorated with pine cones (my yard is littered with them) painted with glitter . A Christmas bush?? Love the smell. Composted after. Too Grinchy?

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    1. Hallie, I've seen pix of an inverted tomato cage with spruce or pine branches attached with wire. Works for me!

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    2. Celia is beating the bushes online with her network, looking for a tree for me right now, Hallie! :-)

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  27. I've always had a real tree, as a child in Puerto Rico when it had lost ALL its needles by Three Kings Day, as a teenager in Vancouver, and here in Switzerland where we have always bought a six- or seven-foot Nordmann fir and filled every square inch of it with lights or decorations. But this year we decided to take a break and be treeless, and next year I'm going to look into buying a smaller one growing in a pot and then seeing if I can move it onto my balcony or plant it somewhere in the neighborhood. I've decided that it's not too late for new traditions.

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    1. That's a great idea to plant the potted Christmas tree someone in your neighborhood or park, etc.

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    2. Kim, I just looked up photos of Nordmann firs - I've never heard of the species before and it's a beautiful tree. I imagine being in Bern at Christmas time provides enough holiday decor and scenery so as to meet anyone's needs, even without a tree at home.

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    3. We usually get a Nordman fir--I love them. But this year the Frazier firs at our tree lot had just come off the truck from Oregon the day before, still covered with snow, and the Nordman's weren't as fresh, so I bought a Frazier.

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  28. Oh memory! The year my husband had already moved to Cincinnati, I took my teenage daughter to the tree farm, purchased a tree and paid extra to have the trunk trimmed and inserted into the tree stand. "All" we had to do is pull it out of the van and carry it inside.

    Our vintage metal tree stand collapsed under the tree's weight. And the only tree stand left at the hardware store was murderously heavy cast iron. We still use it, the ghost of our Christmas past, augmented by a package of shims to keep the trunk straight.

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    1. I love it, Margaret! Our tree stand has got to be thirty years if it's a day, and decidedly looks its age. As do I, so I can't complain.

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    2. Yes, ours is at least thirty, and I'm afraid the cup that the tree trunk fits into might be cracked. And also that any new tree stand is not going to be as good!

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    3. For as long as I could remember our Christmas tree stand was a music box that played Silent Night and another carol, the name of which I never knew or quickly forgot. The tree rotated. Originally from the times when trees were candle lit, (my grandfather’s when he was a child) it survived several tree toplings (cat caused or kid caused). When I shed possessions for a move from CT to FL, I gave the stand to a friend. Don’t know if it still survives (by unspoken consent my friend and I agreed no updates). So many memories this Christmas. Be of good cheer. Elisabeth

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    4. Elisabeth, I can't decide of a musical, rotating three stand would be utterly enchanting or drive me mad. Or both!

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  29. We had live trees through most of our 36 years of marriage. There was even a period where we had one live and one fake, in different rooms. A few years ago, well into empty-nest-hood, we stopped buying a real tree and moved the fake one into the spot of honor. I miss the live one, but consider the savings in effort worth the sacrifice. What I have NOT been able to let go of is decorating it with the crazy mishmash of ornaments that represent our life history.

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    1. Go for it, Susan! One of the best things about Christmas decorations is how individual each household is.

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  30. I see a lot of trees at the various lots with two plants of wood hammered at the trunk bottom so that the trees stand up. I wonder if keeping that stand on and putting the tree in a wide (but not too tall) bucket filled with water would keep it balanced and well watered? Hmmm.

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  31. Real tree! I totally agree with you about the task of putting said tree in the holder. It's a two=person task. Luckily I have someone to help me transport the tree and put it in the stand.

    When I was a child, mom reminded us that Christmas season begins on Christmas Eve--before that it's Advent. We didn't have a car, so frequently the three daughters would walk to the Boy Scout tree lot and walk home with our discounted tree a day or two before Christmas. Margaret put the tinsel on one piece at a time, while Catherine threw it on in handfuls. I (as usual) was somewhere in the middle.

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    1. I used to love tinsel before our first marital cat decided it was a cat treat - a fact we discovered while shoveling out the litter box.

      My grandmother had OLD tinsel, made from God-knows-what (probably lead) that draped heavily over each branch and had to be carefully taken up again at the end of the season and put back in its box.

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    2. That's what we did too.. taking it off the tree was even more fiddly than putting it on.

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  32. The only year I ever remember having a real tree was the first year of marriage in a dry apartment. We had to take it down and throw it out before Christmas when we left town to visit all the relatives. Half of the few ornaments we had got sap on them. I said never again. I currently own a nine foot tree, a four foot tree, and the top of an old four foot tree that the bottom half’s lights would no longer work. I call it Mr. Willowby’s Christmas tree and put it on top of a dresser in the bedroom. I go back and forth between putting up the big tree with the ornaments collected over the past 40 plus years (my oldest one a red glass ball with my name on it in silver glitter given to me by my kindergarten teacher in 1967) and the 4 ft one with red balls and candy canes. This year the little tree won because we are dog sitting our daughter’s two dogs all week. The main tree always goes in front of the living room window.
    https://youtu.be/nAQRQwazAsM?feature=shared

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    1. The you tube link is for a reading of Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree. Merry Christmas!🎄

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    2. Yes, I know 1967 was more than 40 years ago. That ornament is from its own era as compared to the rest of them.

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  33. I can vaguely remember my childhood years when we had a real tree. But early on, my parents decided it's better to have an artificial tree where you can leave the lights on as much as you want versus a real tree where you're afraid to leave them on because they might cause a fire! I actually remember my mother choosing a white artificial tree at one point, which seemed radical to me.

    My husband and I never had a real tree (for 44 years), and in his last years we went for a smaller one--5 feet. I've carried on with that, although I seem to have to replace it every few years because of the lights not functioning properly for long. It's the right size for me, as I can put it up easily (most of the time) by myself, and I love absolutely loading it with garlands and ornaments.

    Happy holidays, everyone!

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  34. I'm back! At least at Celia's house. No electricity on my street, yet, but it's nice to be able to access the internet without driving to the library in the town next door, even as a guest. Fingers crossed, I'll be back at home sometime today.

    Now up to the top of the comments to add my $.02!

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    1. So glad you're safe and sound! Hope your power comes on soon.

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    2. JULIA: Glad you're ok but I figured your power was out. Bruce Robert Coffin posted a photo of a generator Monday night. And neighbouring New Brunswick's power was mostly knocked out by the storm.

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    3. Yay, Julia!! Hope you get home soon!

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  35. Julia, after you write that book of essays, start that Hallmark movie script, okay? Such a beautiful image of two struggling adults, seeing in one moment the value and worth of the life they were making together. Thank you for sharing that memory.

    Trees? Live and artificial growing up. Whatever my mom wanted was okay with everyone else. I didn't plan on a tree in my first home, but a friend was having none of that and gave me a two-foot artificial tree, already lit and decorated. In my current home, I have had two artificial trees--I can take the current one apart, heft each part into basement storage box, and repeat in reverse for the season. I love the twinkling lights--it has three settings--all white, many-colored, and many-colored that change colors. The last is my favorite setting.

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    1. (Flora's comment) And welcome back, Julia!

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  36. It's always been faux. Allergies, for one. And now it's 3D printed with LED lights built in, kind of like a big version of that ceramic Christmas tree we used to see in the '80s, except ours looks more like a green Dahlek.

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  37. Faux tree! I live in the desert - it feels environmentally irresponsible to have a real tree that has to be grown on a farm only to be chopped down and then shipped to a place where its needles will start falling off as soon as it crosses over the county line. So, it's a very tall skinny tree covered in color matching shatter proof ornaments (hello, house of five cats).

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  38. Growing up, there was a former Christmas tree farm across the road. While the original trees were huge, there were enough smaller volunteers that we could go across and cut each year.

    After moving to SoCal after college, we always went back to the Midwest for Christmas, so no trees. Then we had real ones, but since moving to the condo, no trees again. Last year I put out a decorative necklace stand and hung ornaments on it. This year we have the tiny lights that go in empty bottles, so a whisky bottle may be our “tree.”

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  39. We always had live trees. It was my dad that loved the whole ritual of the tree; going to the tree lot, picking out the tree, putting it up and decorating it. My mom wanted an artificial tree and they argued about it every year. My mild-mannered dad always won.

    I'm still in the live tree camp, and fortunately we have a great tree lot here that puts the trees in water so they don't dry out. And our city mulches picks up and mulches the trees in January. If I had to get it into the tree stand by myself, it would be a struggle.

    Loved your story, Julia.

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  40. We've had live trees we've planted, real trees that fought against being vertical. and fake trees when I was feeling economical. Right now we have no trees, which, by the way, is a town in the Texas panhandle. No Trees. I thought this might be the year we get a tree again, but Frank was so late getting here from Texas that I didn't want to go to all the trouble of decorating said tree for just two weeks of admiring it before I had to undecorate it. Note I said "I" not we. Maybe next year.

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    1. Oops. I'm still anonymous. Pat D

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  41. In my area (south Florida) you would find next to nothing left for sale on the 24th. The tree lots are allmost empty already.

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  42. No, no, no, Julia. Not a fake tree. (And they're bad for the environment.) Just get a smaller tree. A nice bushy one, with lots of branches to hang things on. Find one as big as you can handle on your own. Since you're putting it in the bay window, it can go on top of some kind of sturdy box draped with a Christmassy table cloth; even easier if there's a window seat.

    Yes, I speak from experience. If it fits into my Civic (with the back seat flopped forward) it's fine for me. Even putting it in the stand.

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  43. Three cats = no tree. We do get a beautiful wreath from Washington State each year. Hung in the living room. I go along with the others saying write the Hallmark script Julia -- lovely memory. Happy Yule everyone. I am late because Amy had a post chemo check up. Everything is looking very good. She saw several of the folks who went through treatment with her, who were also looking good. She was so happy to share that others better as well. We rejoice in the mutual recoveries. Thank you all for the Christmas tree memories; I am currently burning cedar incense. Not the same, but the scent of season is the best I can do.

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    1. Great news about Amy! The best possible Christmas gift!

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    2. Coralee, I'm so glad that you can fully enjoy Christmas with Amy's great health news.

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  44. Went to a fake tree only when I moved to a condo that prohibited live. But…abandon tree up on Christmas Eve (and down on Epiphany)… NEVER. Enjoy what makes you happy this merry season. Elisabeth

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  45. None this year - new puppy. As a general rule, live. Generally dug up and put in a pot or cut from the back yard. This is Maine!

    My parents had a fake tree. Twice. The first was a shiny silver monstrosity and I cried all night because I was convinced Santa Claus would NEVER bring that awful thing to the house and someone was trying to con my five-year old self (we're German, Santa brings the tree and sets it up on Christmas eve). That tree was deep sixed never to be seen again. Then there was the year my mother wanted the fashionable tree. It was flocked white and decorated only with blue ornaments. This must have arrived in the years after the silver thing because Santa also delivered an evergreen that year with appropriate decorations!

    In all the years of Santa's tree deliveries it never occurred to me to wonder why this night-owl child was allowed to attend Midnight Mass or why my dad never put in an appearance in the pew. Hum. The mysteries of childhood!

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    1. Oh, Kait, there is nothing more magic for a child than going to bed Christmas Eve and waking up to a fully decorated fully lighted Christmas tree. My mother’s family tradition. You are the only other person I know who has told of this. Thank you. (Thinking that this has got to be my soggy Kleenex Christmas. I guess after 77 of them, I may have “earned” it.) Cheers, Elisabeth

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    2. My mom, also of German heritage, said Santa brought her childhood Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, too! We didn’t follow that when I was a child, but my folks did buy our live tree later than my friends’ families (the 20th or 21st usually). I guess we kept it up until Epiphany (though who understands that kind of thing as a child?!). — Pat S

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  46. I swore I would have real trees when I moved out, but when I bought my condo 20+ years ago, I got an artificial tree. I have limited room, so I had to get one that would fit in the space I had for it. But, that was also about the time I started setting it up early and slowly decorating, and then slowly undecorating. All told, it spends two months or so in my living room, so from that stand point, it's probably a good thing, too.

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    1. That seems to be the big advantage to me, Mark (along with always having a consistent size!) The ability to decorate slowly and then put the ornaments away at your leisure is wonderful.

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  47. Trees are such a mark of Christmas, and except for time since Covid, when we have not had one – many reasons – they always were real and went up on Dec 18 or there about. Michael’s b’day was the 18th, and like all kid’s birthdays fell on a Saturday, so on Sunday we would go and pick our tree, cut it down, and put it up. We had a 2-story living room in most houses, and the tree was decorated in memory trinkets and lots and lots of little birds – I was always searching for them. They needed to be birdlike with feathers and not glass. The top was the most beautiful 10” owl. I found it the first Christmas we were married, and of all the things in the house, I think that is on every kids list for the ‘give it to me when you are dead’ category.
    One of my best memories was at university. We were bored, tired of school and avoiding exams, so we trekked out, over the gully next to the train tracks and brought back what can only be described as a branch. Somehow, we cobbled it the wall in the corridor so it stood up. Then we went to supper in the dining hall and scrounged every empty coffee creamer and brought them back. We nipped up to the drug store on the corner and bought some metallic wrapping paper and then 6 of us cut and moulded the paper around the creamers, and popped a thread string through to hang them on the tree as bells. We also bought a life-savor Christmas box, choose the best for ourselves to suck on, and then strung up the rest with the thread for the rest of the ornaments. It was beautiful!

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    1. Those "first Christmas away" trees are always so magical, Margo...

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  48. When Philip and I were first married, for a few years we (or he) thought it was a great idea to get a tree from his grandfather's farm. So, it was never too big, as we had to cut it down. I finally talked husband into an artificial tree, and that's what we've had since. This year, of course, I really didn't feel like having a tree or anything else, but I decided to put one of those small three-foot trees up with it dedicated to Kevin, some special new ornaments for him and a few special old ones. Before, I would have our big tree up and all the decorations around the house done by Thanksgiving when we gathered here for our meal. And, I've never been in a hurry to take the tree down after Christmas.

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    1. That first Christmas is very hard, Kathy. I found it useful to do things VERY differently - it helped. Be gentle with yourself - and much love to you and Philip from all of us.

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    2. Thank you, Julia. I've thought of you often when wondering if going some place, like Hawaii, for Christmas this year wouldn't be the best idea. But, we're staying here for daughter and granddaughter who want to keep their Christmas traditions on Christmas day.

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