Thursday, December 13

The Battle of Christmas Tree

Tis a weary plight, that of the Christmas Tree (At least at my house). One of the strongest symbols of this merry holiday, trees have long been symbols of Christ and his creations and the things that tie us together as families and communities. They lend us strength, connect us with the earth as they stand in our homes, symbols of the Savior and his earthly journey commencing.

Every year I have the same issue. Christmas Trees are a wonderful tradition, just not one I've ever known quite how to pull off in our culturally mixed family. I don't know if it's like this in every family, but every year we ask ourselves just before Thanksgiving, what we're going to do for a Christmas tree. Some years we've bought plants that look like Christmas Trees to hang small trinkets from, or bows. Others, we've painted green pine boughs on our front picture window, and last year we bought a small live yew, thinking we could plant it in a large pot and keep it on the patio for next year or plant it somewhere. Every year something happens to our tree and what seems like a really great idea turns sour. If it was a plant, it would die. If it was a cut tree, it would die. The yew I blogged about last year and had high hopes for just wasn't very pretty, and a few weeks after Christmas it died in it's pot as well. Being a very visually oriented person as well as one that really loves plants, I just don't know how to enjoy that dead stump of formerly living green that comes with a cut tree that has always died as well. Every year we've learned something from our experiences (or tried) and no two years have we tried the same thing.

 This year I thought I had finished the seemingly eternal Christmas Tree struggle but I gave in to what most people probably think of as standard. It wasn't what my husband wanted. He's been telling me for years that we should just buy a fake tree after Christmas and then we'd never have to worry about it again. They don't have many pine trees. But I figure even a Christmas Tree Farm is cleaner and more sustainable than an ugly plastic replica. So we did the easiest thing and I vowed to try harder to keep it alive. We went to a tree lot and bought a tree on a stand that was small enough to fit in our simple house. It cost about $30 including the tree stand. We came home, poured some water in the stand and voila! We had a tree. The kids were excited to finally have a sign of Christmas in our house, twinkly stars and lights. We decorated it together letting them decide where to put things. They even posed for one of a dozen posed photos in their combined lifetime. Christmas seemed to have arrived with warm welcome to our home.

Then Something happened. It didn't happen all of the sudden. I didn't notice it all at once. I had poured water under the tree once on the first day. I would check it periodically to see if it needed more water.  A few days went by and the funny thing was, it never did. And that thing that happened, but not all of the sudden, finally came. I felt the branches and they were totally dead. Dry. Bone Brittle. And I knew that I had failed yet again at a Christmas tree. That was the day before Yesterday.

Yesterday went by with a dead ugly stump full of lights and needles like an elephant in my living room. And this morning I took all the lights off, rolled up the garland of thumb-size stars, and took the tree out in the back garden, stand and all. It looks very pretty there, in the middle of the grass. Maybe the kids can decorate it when we go play outside. And here I was, in the middle of the Holiday season, without a Christmas tree. And there was no way I was paying another $30 for a tree.

Epic Fail.

So I did some soul searching. In other terms, I looked on Pinterest and Google and became increasingly frustrated with myself.

What I wanted was the symbol.  I belong to a group of cultural norms that say what a person is suppose to do or have or be. It owns me. That's why for as long as I've had my own home, I couldn't see past the idea of an actual tree. But even in symbol, there is a difference to me between a real beautiful product of growth and weathering and a reproduction. I needed something real, natural, and beautiful, but it was frustrating to look at myself, seeing the limits I've had learned from a set of cultural norms that mean nothing to me. Tassels and fluffy branches are meaningless. I know that I am more creative than picking the easiest way to a short solution, pretty for a short time.

The ideal would be to find a tree that could go back into the landscape and continue growing. Something that needed very little help in getting established. But another $30 seriously is NOT in my budget. I decided that I wanted something simple. And so I looked around to see what I had that I could stand in my living room and hang simple little creations from. What I found were a bunch of old branches that I've saved from many a bright hot bonfire. I've used them through a few summers of Tomato supports and dog barriers, and after a few autumn rains have washed them clean of debris I think they make a most simple, ecological and beautiful Christmas symbol.

I admit that at first glance it looks like we're going to have a very large bonfire in our living room.

But the simplicity, and openness allows for a LOT more play than with a cut tree on a wobbly stand.

As much as we loved playing out the traditional Christmas Tree decorating scene, it was funner making the stars to go on this one. For the first time in my life I want things to be simple. There are only about 10 stars on the whole tree and I won't miss the other random ornaments much. It seems that of all the things I collect, I'm not very talented at collecting Christmas ornaments.

However  I did enjoy making the stars. Alot.

Merry Christmas!

1 comment:

Annette said...

Love it! The stars are awesome! After personally witnessing the new created tree I thought it the most appropriate for your family and especially your kids!