Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bringing in the tree

For a long time after we moved to this country home, we trekked out into our woods in search of a Christmas tree. Every time, we came back with a 'Charlie Brown Christmas tree' - a tree with branches few and far between that drooped when we put ornaments on them. One year I said, this is it. I want a Christmas tree that is thick with branches, and ever since we have bought our tree from a local tree farm. Usually we just get them off the lot, but this year Tom went out and cut one down so it would be fresher and not drop its needles so quickly. The smell in the house is amazing. We always, always get a balsam fir. Isn't this the essence of Christmas in a way? We always put the tree in the same place. We always use the same kind of lights. We always bake the same kind of cookies. There is something so reassuring that come December, we can count on something being the same year after year. This is why the season is so sad for those who have had a serious change in their lives. The first Christmas after my father died, my mother put up white lights outside instead of colorful ones, and it nearly broke my heart: both the change and what it represented. Tom was just telling me last night that he remembers a Christmas coming home from college, and being so disappointed to find all new lights on the tree. I sometimes dream of just white lights or even no decorations and leaving the tree as it is in its simple beauty. But, no. Not at this stage of my life. I still want the comfort of the familiar, the timeless.


  1. It is that sameness I am relying on this first far from my family and friends. You are so right about how one counts on these things after a big change. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Awww! That bit about the white lights made me all teary!

    I agree that sometimes there's something really reassuring about tradition (even when it's grumbling about how much something bugs you!) at this time of year. When it's light again, there will be time enough for change.

  3. I can relate to that so well, Nan! Having lost my husband less than 5 weeks ago, I have not been much in the mood yet to put up Christmas decoration at home.
    But I know that I will spend Christmas Eve at my parents' place, like we always did, and it will be lovely and warm and reassuring as ever - with one person missing at the table.
    There will be tears, probably, but there will also be the things I can always rely on for Christmas Eve: the same food for dinner, the tree at the same place in the room, the real candles (NEVER electric lights, they just make the tree look like any old lamp) and the ornaments that we greet every year like long-lost friends.

  4. There is nothing like the sproing of a tree being opened and that delicious smell filling the house. Balsam firs make me think of my Aunt Rita who kept little pillows filled with balsam needles in the back window of her car. It always smelled like Christmas! Just think how many little pillows you can make after the holidays are finished! ;) You tree is lovely.

  5. Your tree looks lovely and soft...we have a spruce and it is sooooo prickly! it does smell nice, though. And madrekarin fund the perfect word for my first reaction to your photos: SPROING!

  6. Book Psmith, you are so welcome. I'll be thinking of you.

    Sprite, I love how you ended your comment. What a great thought.

    Librarian, I thought of you as I was writing today. I'm sure your parents will be as loving and comforting as they can possibly be. I love the 'thought' of real candles, but it couldn't be here. First of all, we have our tree up for weeks. Second, the dogs would shake it walking by and we would then have no house because it would burn down. I grew up with the big, colorful electric bulbs so to me they are really special. But oh, the glow you must have.

    Karin, no, no. how many pillows YOU could make. :<) 'sproing' - that's it! I couldn't come up with a word that described the fun of taking off the rope.

  7. Joni, your comment came in just after I answered the others. I so agree with Karin's word! The balsam isn't prickly at all.

  8. Your tree is gorgeous - we always get balsam fir, too. This will be 'tree weekend' coming up.

    My family still talks about the year we were all sick, and just one sister went out with my father to get the tree. They were back home in 15 minutes (the process usually took hours to find just the right one) with the ugliest tree ever. The rest of us nicknamed the tree "Chuckie" after A Charlie Brown Christmas. We still laugh and reminisce about "Chuckie" like it was last year. Hard to believe it's been over 30!

    There is something so comforting about December rituals.

  9. Your tree is beautiful in itself. I can so relate to the sameness of Christmas. Many changes in my life and yet I have tried to keep Christmas the same. Some years it is a struggle, but always a comfort in the end.

  10. Now we're the ones who traipse out and get a Charlie Brown tree...such a pathetic thing. Forest trees just don't get enough sunlight. But its Charlie Brownness will be another memory to go with the December hike. And someday I'll get a beauty yours!

    LOVED your recommendation of Men of a Certain Age. Thank you, Nan! We have it taped. What did you think?

  11. There is nothing that can compare to the scent of a real Christmas tree! Perhaps sometime I should post the photos of my brother and I "re-engineering" the tree we brought home several years ago, much to my parents' dismay. We do not have good tree judgment (it comes from feeling sorry for the ugly tree). First it had to be cut down several feet -- and then many of the branches redistributed using a saw, a drill, and some glue...

    But gosh, it did smell good.

  12. We haven't bought our tree yet,there are two sorts we can find usually,I have never found a balsam fir. Your house must have a delicious perfume!
    I planned to make gingerbread today, I think I will try your cookies too!
    Have a good day.

  13. This post has got me more into the Christmas spirit. Today we're having an early Chritmas celebration with my sister-in-law and nephews with their family before we go up to our new house at the weekend. So it's turkey dinner today.

    Seeing your tree makes me want to put up our tree and in the new front garden there is a live Christmas tree that we can decorate with lights.

    So for us there are changes this year - leaving some family behind, but being nearer to the rest of our family. Time to make new traditions!

  14. 'This is why the season is so sad for those who have had a serious change in their lives.'

    So true, Nan, and how I sympathise with Librarian, having been there. I think one still wants that old Christmas continuity: the message is the same, after all.

    I *love* your little blue bookcase!

  15. JoAnn, I love your story! We have such beautiful balsams in the woods, but they just don't have the strength and shape to come indoors.

    Lisa, I so liked what you said. I have a Christmas cd by Linda Eder with a song (the title song actually) called Christmas Stays the Same. Maybe I'll see if there's a you tube. I just looked and couldn't find one. :<(

    June, yes it is the memory of going out and cutting it down that is fun, but once it was in, I just wanted a fuller one. :<) I really liked the show. Email me when you've seen it, okay?

    Kiirstin, you should absolutely put these on your blog! What a great tale! Have you seen the kids' book, Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect by Richard Schneider?

    Margaret, it is a beauty! Hey we lost power AGAIN - did you? I don't think your town was on the list.

    K, what are the two kinds? I'm always interested in Christmas trees of other places. Happy baking! What about starting your own blog, K??!

    Books Please, thank you for saying that. How lovely to have a tree you can put lights on outside! It will be beautiful.

    Call me madam, I was hoping you would read her comment, knowing you would understand. Your words, 'the message is the same' are so perfect. Thanks about the bookcase. Bought it in a local store years ago. The little drawers in the bottom hold bookmarks.

  16. So lovely, Nan. Can't wait to see it decorated. :)


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