The Christmas tree ritual

«Why don’t you choose one and I’ll come and cut it down later with the chainsaw?» he said in answer to my question about finding a Christmas tree. I knew he was only joking but I threw him a dirty look anyway. We have the same conversation every year when it comes to finding a tree and his selective memory every mid-December never fails to dismay me.

When I lived in the UK, choosing a tree had been a simple matter of going to the garden centre and picking out one that had been pre-cut and wrapped. It was usually a plump spruce that had small needles and branches on all four sides. An average shaped tree that despite its averageness was nonetheless symmetrical.

Here in France however, tradition in my husband’s family has it that our Christmas tree should be selected from amongst the thousands of pine trees growing in wild abundance on the farm. He would never hear of us buying a tree when we were surrounded by so many. Unfortunately, although they possess a certain rustic charm, these pine trees do not have the advantages of the typical Christmas tree. The needles aren’t flat, but encircle the whole branch like bicycle spokes, making it difficult to hang the decorations with their tiny, spruce intended loops. More importantly, the harshness of the winters and the strength of the Mistral, ensure that all the trees, without exception, are missing branches on their northern side.

When we moved in together, my husband went to choose and cut down our first Christmas tree by himself. We obviously did not share the same idea of symmetry, because although it fitted very snugly against the wall, a semi-circle tree was not what I had in mind. Looking back, I suppose that I couldn’t have been very diplomatic when I pointed out the glaring lack of branches on one side.

Now, every year, when I ask him to come with us to choose a tree he delights in reminding me of the conversation we had all that time ago. I plead and cajole and tell him how wonderful he is and finally he’ll go and fetch the saw and follow us up behind the farm into the woods. I do feel a bit guilty about sweet talking him into coming with us every year; but only a bit. Someone’s got to carry the tree back after all.

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10 Responses to The Christmas tree ritual

  1. Heidi says:

    LOL! I can see why your husband would feel silly buying a tree when you have so many around you, but, on the other hand, I so understand your need for a ‘proper’ Christmas tree. I still struggle with the Canadian Xmas trees, b/c they are of a different kind than the Scandinavian ones I grew up with. I’m getting used to them, but I don’t *like* them as much.

    And the tree *must* still be symmetrical. 🙂

    Good luck – I hope you find the perfect tree.


  2. tut-tut says:

    I remember trudging through the snow for the perfect tree . . . these days it’s a trip to the “tree center” with the giant inflated Santa out front. Certainly not the same at all.

  3. When I got to the part in your story about the missing branches on the north side of the tree I said to myself, “She’d have to shove it up against a wall”. Not acceptable. HA. I thnk each family has Christmas tree traditions and many funny stories to go along with them. In the U.S. a scraggly, misshaped Christmas tree is referred to as a Charlie Brown tree. My husband brought home many a Charlie Brown tree.

  4. Lizzy says:

    Oh, I feel for you. I was raised with a fake Christmas tree and I finally convinced my husband to get me one a few years back. This year, though, someone insisted we have a real one and they even bought it and delivered it to us. It was so sweet of them, but the tree is UGLY. There are huge gaps and holes through the whole thing and it looks like someone cut down the center of the top of it, for about a foot or two, and removed one side.

    However, going out and cutting your own tree from off your own property does sound romantic.

  5. Cari says:

    I sure know how you feel…I remember the California Christmas trees so well and the smell, sigh…Back in Africa, Xmas tree lots were non-existent so we would cut one of the self seeded cypress trees we had growing on the farm – every year ’til we left. They smelled wonderful, but different! Now I really miss their lovely spicy smell…hope you find that special tree this year!

  6. I know what you mean about the nicely shaped ones. But, for me, there’s something about trudging through the snow with kids in tow, to pick out your own from your own land that I like too.

  7. Kathleen says:

    When I was a teenager, my father was still going out looking for the perfect tree from the acres of woods (not all ours) that surrounded our home. He would come home with the most beautiful trees! It wasn’t until I was employed in the same office as the wife of one of my father’s work buddies, that I came to know that Dad would go to Darryl’s home, they’d watch some sports, down a few beers, and then go next door to the tree farm to buy their trees.
    I love these kinds of stories…the memories are with us forever.

  8. Mary Alice says:

    This was such a nice story. Brought back memories of our own family tradition back in the Northern California Mountains….going out into the forest with the thermos filled with hot chocolate, searching and sawing our tree and the family tailgate picnic in the snow.

  9. Gigi says:

    For the past ten years, we’ve had a plastic tree – my husband bought it, insisting it was more practical, more economical and tidier. Well, the tree has finally bit the dust (like the marriage) and this year I promised the children I’d buy a real one.

    Guess what? I went to buy one – but all I could see were these poor sawed- off Christmas trees standing forlornly in the supermarket car park when they should have been up there, on the mountainside, standing tall and proud in the crisp frosty mountain air…

    I bought a plastic one 🙂

  10. Gigi says:

    oops. Bad grammar. Should be ‘has bitten’… 😦

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