Rockin’ Around the Real Christmas Tree

Now that we’re almost empty nesters, my husband tentatively suggested that we destroy Christmas. We were cuddling in front of the TV when he whispered, “Do you think it’s time we invested in a fake tree?”

“No.”

“But a real tree stresses you out each year.”

“That’s not stress, it’s the Christmas spirit,” I replied.

“I didn’t know the Christmas spirit was so grouchy.”

DSC_0798A real Christmas tree has always been the center of my holiday decorating. Growing up, we’d hang stockings, put out Advent calendars and display nativity scenes, but the season didn’t officially start until the tree was plunked into a bucket of boiling Mountain Dew. We had the only caffeine-addicted tree on the street.

After dad strung the lights and went to hide in his bedroom, we’d attack the tree like a whirling tornado, fighting over who got to hang favorite ornaments. Once we were in bed, mom and dad would re-decorate and hang tinsel, one silvery strand at a time, on every branch.

I’ve carried on that tradition (minus the tinsel that would cling to our clothes) to create our own perfect Christmas tree.

Our holiday tree has never been a symbol of opulence. We’ve never had a Winter Wonderland tree with white fluffy reindeer frolicking through snowy silk ribbons, dangling with sparkly Swarovski crystals and silver-sequined snowflakes.

Instead, our tree’s branches are weighed down by homemade angels with ratted-out hair and lopsided halos, clothespin reindeer tangled around hand-beaded wreaths, and South Park characters rubbing shoulders with the baby Jesus.

Decades of school photo ornaments hang amid the evergreen boughs, detailing years of missing teeth, questionable hairstyles and teenage angst. And loved ones who have passed away are remembered with ornaments ranging from dancing shoes to teardrop prisms.

Put together, it’s an explosion of bad taste that would make Martha Stewart cry. But it’s not just a Christmas tree—it’s a family tree representing years of holiday memories.

The finished product is only half of the story. Finding the perfect Christmas tree is a tradition/catastrophe I anticipate/loathe every December. Hence my husband’s misguided “fake tree” suggestion. He just doesn’t understand that a plastic tree is a soulless imitation of holiday beauty, and the first step to anarchy.

Each year, I schedule a day to pick out a tree, and without fail it’s the coldest, snowiest, iciest weekend of the month. My youngest daughter tags along to make sure I get it right, and to help hold the tree on top of the car once the loosely-tied knots start to unravel–much like my mind.

We scour tree lots, looking for an evergreen that is devoid of bare spots, more alive than dead, and not full of spiders. (Don’t ask. It’s a horrible holiday memory.) We also try to avoid tree lots managed by the town drunk. (That’s another Christmas/horror saga involving a leering, inebriated tree salesperson with a chain saw.)

pig angelOnce the tree arrives safely home, we discover the 10-foot tree won’t fit into our 8-foot living room. We attack it with dull handsaws and scissors until it fits, and then, in a flurry of Christmas chaos, we adorn it with lights and ornaments, and top it with a rickety angel, balanced precariously on the highest branch.

When the dust settles, we’ll snuggle by the tree, watching Christmas lights twinkle while the snow softly falls. It’s the epitome of holiday perfection. Until my husband whispers, “What do you think about having Christmas dinner at Village Inn?”

Could be a long, cold winter in our home.

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How to Tell if You Have Holiday Stress

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but Christmas is fast approaching. Along with shopping, partying, trying not to gain 20 pounds, finding the perfect present for your crotchety neighbor, and avoiding those guilt-inducing Salvation Army bell ringers, stress levels are at an all-time high. There’s a good chance you’ll find yourself in a department store with absolutely no recollection of having walked through the doors.

barbie(If this is you, don’t bother reading. Go on with your freakin’ perfect life.)

Here are ways to determine if you might be overdoing it this holiday season:

  • You are in the mall–crying.
  • You’re eating coffee beans straight from the bag.
  • The sound of “Jingle Bells” makes you want to vomit.
  • If Santa doesn’t move kids faster through his line, you’ll punch him in the kidney.
  • Your Christmas wish list consists of drug/alcohol products.
  • If you hear “Silent Night” one more time, you will pop your eardrums with a candy cane.
  • Christmas lights are too loud.
  • Your meals consist of sugar cookies, fudge and despair.
  • You seriously consider converting to a non-Christmas-observing religion.
  • People start suggesting the name of a good doctor.
  • Your Christmas tree is mocking you.

DSC_0798(Stop laughing at me Mr. Pine Tree. I’m doing the best I can!!)

  • If you hear Bing Crosby’s “Silver Bells” once more, you’ll stab a reindeer.
  • You decide aluminum foil makes pretty wrapping paper.
  • Nativity scenes make you angry.
  • You find yourself in the middle of a Christmas tree lot, handing out uncooked pasta, in your underwear.
  • You are asked to leave a department store because you won’t stop yelling, “You can’t handle the truth!”
  • Children avoid you.
  • If you receive one more happy family Christmas newsletter, you’re going to go all Unabomber.
  • Your grandma slaps you to calm you down.
  • Your family hides in the walk-in closet until you go to sleep.

Cheer up! It will be over soon, and you can look forward to a long, cold, dreary January.

(If one more person tells you to “Cheer up!” they might find a dismembered nutcracker in their fridge.)