In my family, we celebrate Christmas. Not so much the honoring-the-birth-of-baby-Jesus way of celebrating, but a celebration of brightening the winter darkness with yummy foods, sharing drinks, lights, sparkles, and shiny things. And always the cornerstone of that celebration is the tree.
Putting a Christmas tree up is rooted in Pagan traditions, particularly in Germanic culture. According to the History Channel, “many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.” Until the the mid 1800’s, people thought bringing a tree in the home was strange, and witch-phobia 17th century America made decorating one a hangable-offense. It wasn’t until 1846, when the popular English Queen Victoria and her family was shown in front of a decorated tree, did the tradition become come popular.
We have always had a real tree. I have very strong prejudicious against fake trees. They are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is a non-biodegradable petroleum plastic that off-gasses dioxins (which can be stored in the fatty tissues of us and animals, causing cancer, neurological damage, and many other serious health issues). Many trees, especially older ones, contain lead. Almost all the fake trees are made in China, furthering the environmental impact of shipping. They can not be recycled and are highly flammable. And, artificial trees were first produced in the 1930’s by a company that also manufactured toilet brushes. Do you really want a giant toilet brush in your living room? There is nothing that says Happy Holidays about that!
Real trees, however, are awesome, and I think the better choice. They produce delicious woodland smells, creating a natural air-freshener. Trees grown on a farm were planted specifically for the purpose of cutting, but while they were growing they provided wildlife habitat and produced oxygen and renewed air quality. When you’re finished with the tree, it can be composted 100% (unless you flock your tree- you’re just as bad as the fake tree followers….). There are about 400 million Christmas trees growing in North America, creating 500,000 acres of green space. For every tree cut down, one or more is replanted. Plus, you’re supporting local economy with your purchase.
As a kid, my family would go to a tree farm or my dad would cut one off our property. I continued the tradition with my husband, and we have gotten a tree each year since we’ve been together. Sometimes they come from a fundraiser lot of pre-cut, once it came from National Forest with a U-cut permit, but almost always we cut our own from a christmas tree farm in Sebastopol. We wander around, finding perfectly good trees, but always continue the search in case “a better one is right up there”. Once we either find a perfect one or Matt gets annoyed at my indecision, I cut the tree (after all, I’m not a woodcutters daughter for nothing!) and Matt carries it back to the truck. We have very few traditions, but this is one of them.This year, I was interested in buying a live tree, as I was inspired by this project of collecting the trees after the holidays and planting them in Lake County to restore the land after the Valley wildfire. We went to Harmony, one of the participating nurseries, but I was saddened to find out that for the health of the tree, you can only leave it inside for 10 days. Since I like to have my tree up for the month of December and into January, we decided that our normal U-Cut from a tree farm was the best choice.
So that’s what we did this past weekend, and then decorated the tree with a several strands of un-matching lights and the hodgepodge of ornaments! Our collection is made up of store bought baubles, glass antiques, pinecones collected while hiking, corks saved from champagne, and even the first egg we got from our first flock of chickens. I make sure that the bottom tier of ornaments are cat friendly or they are wired on tight, as we will inevitably lose one or more to the fuzzy creatures. Instead of a tree skirt, we put the stand in a big galvanized wash-tub, which is much easier to clean around, and the cats don’t treat it as a bed.
What about you? What are your holiday traditions like? Do you have a tree up this year? What do you like to decorate with? Do you hate fake trees as much as I do?
“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.” – Maya Angelou