Monday, December 10, 2012

How An Artificial Tree Saved Christmas

Confession: I hate chopping down my own Christmas tree.

Finding and cutting down the perfect Christmas tree is the cornerstone of many a family's Christmas, including my own. My parents liked to get the tallest tree they could find for the 20 foot ceilings in our house. Nineteen-foot trees and the work that goes with them, were fraught with National Lampoon-like antics, which are never as funny in real life. Even in retrospect, I consider the year that the tree fell over an hour after we had painstakingly got it up and decorated, a holiday low point.

Nevertheless, the first several years of our marriage I insisted that we go with my family or friends to cut down our Christmas tree. Aaron, being the good husband he is, complied even though he was pretty ambivalent about the whole process, and actually would do his best to talk me out of it.

A tree would be dragged home and the holiday "fun" would begin. We argued about whether or not we should hose it off before bringing it in (he always wanted to, I never did), we would argue about when we would decorate it, right that second or another day when we weren't tired and cranky.

Some years we would leave it outside and I would be hacked off that I didn't get to decorate the tree that night, thus leaving my holiday expectations unfulfilled until he was ready to help me set the tree up, sometimes days (!) later, leaving me grumpier (and less fun to live with) with each passing day.

Some years, I would be a big enough pain-in-the-you-know-what, that he'd drag the tree inside, un-hosed down, help me get it into the stand and then sit on the couch to watch tv, while I fumed because he wouldn't help me decorate the tree he didn't want to bring into the house in the first place. He would fume under the knowledge that we could have put up the old artificial tree in the attic and saved us $60 and a stupid fight.

Fa la la la la la la la la. 

We had an artificial Christmas tree, which I begrudgingly used every other year. It wasn't until the last year that we got a real tree and had our biggest fight about hosing/not hosing off the tree, (which I lost so the tree sat in a bucket in the yard for a week) that I realized that the years I put the fake tree up also happened to be the years that we didn't have a really stupid tree-related fight.We were also much happier and had more fun getting ready for Christmas.

Huh. Weird.

But it was tradition to get a real tree! It isn't Christmas if the house doesn’t smell like pine! Christmas just isn't the same without a real tree! I want my kids to have the joy of cutting down their own tree! 

My parents always fought during the whole Christmas tree acquisition process. My husband and I were always fighting over the same thing. No one ever had fun. Sure, the trees were always pretty and (sometimes) smelled good, but they had become a symbol of unnecessary martial strife. First for my parents and now for us.

This is the "joy" I wanted to pass down to my kids? Um, no, it wasn't. 

So, I embraced the artificial tree. It works perfectly for my spontaneous personality. When I feel like decorating for the holidays, I grab the tree from the garage, set it up, and decorate it, all without an argument. Christmas is still special regardless of the tree's origins. We still celebrate the birth of Christ, we still remember the joy of family and giving and being together. Where our Christmas tree came from doesn’t make or break our holiday.

It was liberating, I tell you!

Giving myself (and my poor husband) the freedom to give up something "we always did" that didn't give us joy, or quite frankly, lead us to honor God with our actions, has only enriched our ability to enjoy the holiday season. Someday, when our kids ask us if we can get a "real" tree, I hope that we can do it for the right reason - as a family activity that gives us an opportunity to be together and have fun.

Are there any traditions, holiday or otherwise, that have realized you hate and can do without?


  1. I liked hearing about this in person, but the read was equally fun. Boy can I relate in many aspects! I added this as a link on my latest post. It was too perfect with my tradition theme today. We're on the same vibe! ;)

  2. This post hits home. As a child, we would always travel to Half Moon Bay, where we would cut down our christmas tree after visiting every tree farm in town. We would cap off the trip with a trip to Barbara's Fish Trap for calamari. I remember these family trips fondly, however I also remember the fighting that inevitably happened when we got home. My mom would want the tree in the house. My dad would have trouble putting in the stand, so he would give it a hack job, and as we peered down from the staircase from above, my parents would argue about every aspect of putting the tree up. There would be yelling, fighting, and tears. Once the tree was up, we would have an awesome tree decorating party. Everyone would come over, we would feast on fresh crab and homemade clam chowder. The tree acquisiton was always so dramatic that to me, even as a kid, the trip to the tree farm wasn't worth it.

    The first year my husband and I were married, we got a real tree from Home Depot. Once it was placed in our tiny living room we discovered that I was allergic to real christmas trees, so now we have a Costco Special, and our only disagreement is about how early we put it up.


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