O Christmas tree

“How about this one?”

I held the 6-and-a-half foot Frasier Fir at arm’s length, shaking it vigorously so the branches would fall into a more natural position.

“Nope. Too skinny,” my wife said, frowning and shaking her head.

“You keep rejecting these trees because they’re too skinny. I’m starting to get a complex,” I said with a Vanna White sweep of my hand toward my own slender physique.

Barron helps me pick a Christmas tree

The one on the left lost out because it was too skinny.

This year’s Christmas tree selection process went about the same as it has for the last several. Every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we load up the family in our minivan, go out for a big breakfast at Waffle House or IHOP, then head to the most convenient tree farm with the best selection – Lowe’s.

I’m sure there was a day where good Southern folk went into the woods to select their trees, cutting them right where they stood. Those days are rapidly fading into memories.

My wife’s father, who grew up on a farm, loves to tell about their annual Christmas tree selection. It involved a lot of sweat and, occasionally, some blood and tears.

The only tears in our selection process come from our 3-year-old when his brothers won’t push him around on the rolling skid.

Growing up in Dallas-Fort Worth, where there ain’t but so many trees to begin with, this wasn’t an option for us. We went the live tree route for several years, until we figured out that my brother always seemed to be sick during the entire Christmas season. Turned out he was allergic, so we switched to an artificial tree.

As I handed Barron two trees to hold so I could get a good look at them side-by-side, I couldn’t help but wonder how families made these decisions when trees were still attached to the ground. Friends who grew up going to a Christmas tree farm describe how the family would split up, indelicately yelling across the farm when they had found one, playing a waterless version of Marco Polo. The advent of the mobile telephone changed all that, but they confess that they do miss the hollering part.

By the time we settled on our tree – a nice fat one – tied it down to the roof of our van, got it home safely, whacked off a few branches from the bottom so it will fit in the base and put it in its proper place in our living room, it didn’t look the same. It’s lost a few pounds. Apparently, like some of us, it was carrying all of its girth in those lower branches.

Our Christmas tree

The finished product

Because of relatively low ceilings, the 6-and-a-half footer is all that will fit in our living room, but with lights and ornaments, it was transformed. Never mind that its needles began falling before the first strand of lights was affixed, our tradition is our tradition and we stand by it.

“You know, it wouldn’t matter if we waited a week to get our tree,” I said, unwinding the cord on the vacuum to get up the needles. “They still cut all these trees in October.”

But the tree turned out to be beautiful, and with each personalized ornament, the telling of the story behind it, the excited skipping about and the breathless and repeated asking “Is Christmas this day?” I saw just how important this symbol is to our family.

Though they may be updated from time to time, traditions add meaning. Here’s hoping your traditions make your Christmas season meaningful.

How do you pick your Christmas tree? What are the characteristics you look for in a tree? Where do you get your tree? Have you gone artificial? Do you have a pre-lit tree? Share your tree traditions and memories by leaving a comment below.

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About lanceelliottwallace

Lance Elliott Wallace lives and writes in the Atlanta suburb of Lilburn. A native of Texas and a former resident of Florida and Alabama, Lance married a Georgia girl and together they are rearing three Georgia boys. By day he communicates for Georgia Tech engineers and scientists. He spends his early morning hours praying, writing and running.
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6 Responses to O Christmas tree

  1. Heather says:

    We have to wait until December to get our tree. This year is the first that Micah will help us decorate it and I am looking forward to that part more than ever.

  2. Emily says:

    I knew the one on the right had to be the winner! We used to go pick out a tree on a Friday night after dinner and then to get hot chocolate before decorating. My favorite ornament that had to go on the tree was my dad’s Strek Trek space-ship (might have been the voyager… I don’t know) that would say, “Peace, Live Long, and Prosper.” No tree this year, though… I’ll save that for everyone in Louisville.

  3. Rachel says:

    Growing up my family would pick out a tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving. After having trees that lost their needles for too many years, we finally found a man who cut his trees the week of Thanksgiving. It was great to go back year after year to the same corner Christmas tree market and have someone remember you from the last year. His trees were always fresh. We would decorate the tree as a family with Christmas music playing in the background. Now my husband and I have gone to using a pre-lit tree, and I do most of the decorating myself. Tonight’s the night to pull out the tree; hopefully he’ll be more eager to decorate this year!

  4. Clarissa says:

    I am breathlessly awaiting the essay on the process which leads to the production of the annual Wallace family Christmas card!

  5. Clarissa, you are clairvoyant! I’ll go ahead and reveal that next week’s topic is the trials and travails of coming up with our annual Christmas card.

  6. Meredith says:

    Mom donated an old artificial one that she doesn’t use anymore to the poor-student-wants-a-tree cause 🙂 But you’re right, the work of decorating really is transformational.

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