I am a real Christmas tree person.
I have nothing against artificial trees or the people who employ their use during Christmas. In fact, some members of my very own family have switched to artificial trees, and I have yet to judge them for it publicly.
My favorite part each year is the actual hunt for a tree. While we don’t head off in a horse drawn sleigh through snowy woods, I kinda go there in my mind. The hunt for the perfect tree each year is part of the seasonal excitement. To that end, here are a few things I think everyone should take into consideration in regard to your Christmas tree.
- You never know what you may find. One year, when my daughter was about 2, we were looking through a tree lot, trying to find the perfect tree. As we sized up this tree and that, my daughter, snugly wrapped in probably far more winter clothes than necessary, tugged at my pants legs. “Daddy — kang-ah-roooo,” she said. I continued inspecting the tree at hand. “Daaaaa-dddy! Kanga-ROOOO!” Now she was pointing. “Yes, sweetie, kangaroo,” I said in response to her wonderful imagination and continued my tree inspection. “DAAA-DDY! KANGAROOOOOO!!!!” Somewhat annoyed that she was disrupting my very important task, I spun around, sighed and looked at where she was pointing. At a kangaroo. Just hopping around in a fenced area at a vet’s office next door. Did I mention I don’t live in Australia?
- Measure twice, cut once. While good advice when working with wood, it’s especially important to do this with a tree, at least in my house. One year, I simply guessed what size tree we would need and we got a tree that my wife deemed too skinny and too short, mainly because it was too skinny and too short. On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a commentary about how she hated the tree. Let’s just say that carried on through the season. Now, prior to any tree hunt, I stand where the tree will go in our house and stretch my arms up high and then out to the side, and I become the human measuring tape by which we will find the wife-approved size tree.
- Secure your tree. Especially if you have pets. One night, many years ago, my wife and I were snuggled in for a long winter’s nap. (Alas, my wife was not in her kerchief and I was not in a cap.) But there was such a clatter downstairs in our den, which was a fantastic mish-mash of a tree crashed to the floor and ornaments smashed and broken and shattered and a very, very, very unhappy cat screeching as she shot out from under her toppled foe. Upside — in our case, one time taking out a Christmas tree was enough to ensure she never, ever, ever set foot in a room with a Christmas tree again.
- There is no wrong way to decorate a tree. Ah, just kidding. There are plenty of wrong ways, and that usually involves having small children decorate the tree, thus concentrating every ornament within two feet of the ground. When kids get older, they sometimes stake claim to ornaments as their own, which can lead to super fun happy Christmas disagreement time. My wife has developed a draft style system in which the kids pick their ornaments ahead of time, and then decorate their allotted side. Thus, there will be no debate over whether that “St. Thomas 1998” ornament is either of theirs, despite the fact that we got it before either of them was a consideration on this planet.
- Follow proper tree disposal protocol. Trust me on this. Apparently, last year, when I trotted out a stiff, brown tree to the curb some time around mid-February, my wife suggested that I should have gotten rid of it earlier. I had no argument.
So enjoy your Christmas, and especially your tree, be it real or artificial. And hopefully your tree is covered with your family’s past and be a walk down memory lane. You know, like the time you went to St. Thomas years before you were born…
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C., and now lives in Charleston. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.