By Bruce Stambaugh
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a Christmas tree.
I realize an evergreen wasn’t part of the original Nativity setting. Nevertheless, having a decorated tree is a must for our family Christmas.
By tree, I mean a real, live evergreen. Nothing less will do. An artificial tree is beyond the pale of consideration.
We are fortunate to live where we have easy access to purchasing trees right from a tree farm. In fact, we most often select and cut our own.
Fortunately, my good wife has an equal inherent affection for acquiring, decorating and displaying Christmas trees. Each of our families took special efforts to secure just the right tree. Our fathers were instrumental in establishing that tradition.
My father often piled his five children into the car on a holiday expedition to choose the perfect tree. Perhaps Dad thought if we helped select the tree and drag it back to the car, the fussing about the tree’s quality was greatly diminished if a bare spot or crooked trunk were discovered once we got it up.
The tree had to be proportionate to the space it would occupy, which was usually in the living room. It also had to be either fresh cut or a balled tree that could be planted after the holidays had concluded.
My wife and I repeated the holiday tree trek tradition with our own children. No tree was chosen without consensus. Certain anticipation, exuberance and satisfaction filled the collective process.
Since our home’s property is already sufficiently populated with evergreens and deciduous trees, we generally cut our tree. That’s what my wife and I did again this year.
On a sunny Saturday morning earlier this month, we meandered along the scenic drive across rolling hills and through pastoral valleys south into the next county. At the Christmas tree farm, high on an open, breezy ridge, where Native Americans once hunted and traversed through old growth forests, our search didn’t take long. We found the Frazier fir we wanted within minutes.
Neva held the beauty while I made quick order of the trunk with my trusty tree saw. Green person that I am, the tree gets recycled as temporary bird shelter near the feeders once the holidays are concluded.
It’s a joy to inhale the marvelous fragrance of the conifer as we set it up in front of the living room windows. The vibrant needles, deep green on top, blue green beneath, are supple and showy. The pleasing symmetry and the piney smell are additional benefits to having a live tree.
Decorating the tree is also family tradition for both my wife and I, though the process varies from year to year. We tend to trim the evergreen modestly, out of reverence for its natural beauty. No garland or tinsel can be found on our tree.
The strings of mini-white lights, symbolizing the stars in that Bethlehem night sky, are first to grace the tree. Colorful ornaments of various sizes and shapes are aesthetically hung, dangling on the tender branches. An unassuming cloth angel, older than our marriage and gifted to my wife by a student, traditionally tops the tree.