Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Great Christmas Tree War

I grew up in a Christmas House. You know the kind – my mother took down every single decorative item in the public areas of the house, including the bathrooms, and replaced them with something red, green, or sparkly. There were lights and animated reindeer outside, wreaths in the windows, cross-stitched cloths over every table. There were candles surrounded by plastic wreaths on the coffee table, snowglobes and crocheted angels on the end tables, and a light-up Christmas scene with rolls of cotton batting for fake snow that took up the entire pool table. And a tree, of course, as tall as the room could handle, with a motley collection of ornaments that had been gifted over the years, or that our teachers forced my brother and me – who are both hopelessly inartistic – to fashioned out of green-painted salt dough or popsicle sticks and glitter.

It was, always, a real tree, so the moment I stepped in the door after school I smelled pine and remembered Christmas was coming.

My husband, however . . . well, okay, I can give him some slack here. He grew up without Christmas, and as such doesn’t have proper appreciation for the importance of some things. He does really adore Christmas, mostly because he likes food and presents an almost embarrassing amount. And unlike me and the rest of my generation, he could be shamed into eating lutefisk with my grandfather on Christmas Eve, which earned him major Christmas points.

But he doesn’t get the real tree thing. Messy, he says. Expensive, and simply too much work. Why not make it simple?

I’m not interested in fake, I say. About anything, really. Real flowers, real chocolate, real butter, real diamonds . . . why would you ever settle for anything else?

It came to a head when our older boys were, oh, maybe 5 and 8. He wasn’t putting one up, he said, unless it was fake. I’d rather have no tree at all than one that wasn’t real, I insisted.

Days went by. Weeks. He was sure I’d cave, that I couldn’t survive a Christmas without a tree. I, otoh – well, if one starts simply giving into husbands, that way madness lies.

So we had no tree that year. Not as terrible as it sounds, because we opened our presents at my parents’, where there was a lovely – and real – Christmas tree.

We’ve had a tree every year since. A real one, of course. Though now the yearly conversation goes like this. DH: I’m getting a little one this year. A really little one. Me: Fine. Husband: I mean it. A SHORT tree. Me: Got it. No problem.

But then he takes one of our children along, and, out in that empty baseball field turned Optimists’ Tree Lot, they all look so small and lonely in all that space, and he invariably hauls home one that’s sticking out from our van roof in both the front AND the back by a good three feet.

Except this year. THIS year, he insists, we’re getting a small tree.

Seems we’re giving away presents this month . . . my favorite thing! Win a couple of my other favorite things (food, and books!) by telling me your Christmas “musts,” and what you’re willing to give up in the name of sanity. (I’ve given up baking Christmas cookies, though I enjoy it very much. But no one I know really wants to EAT more than a few, which leaves far too many in my kitchen, tempting me all day).



Kylie said...

Susie, I can appreciate the tree story! My husband and I early on went through the same short, fake tree discussion. But I tend to want 9 foot trees that are 6 feet across! The last couple years we've gotten Balsam firs which are so lovely...but they just don't come big enough. Dh loves them because he can drag them through the door and put them up without help, LOL. He was absolutely crestfallen to hear me say next year we're going back to Scotch pines because they're bigger.

Debra Dixon said...

Susie-- Fabulous blog. Of course in my house I play the role of your husband and my husband takes your part. LOL!

His mother was a "Christmas-ize" everything-not-nailed-down kind of gal. He comes by a need to see the house decorated honestly. However, his mother did fake trees, so that's why he MUST have a real tree. No matter the ridiculous cost!!

And we have an cats so it's always festive to see how many times we have to put the tree back "up." Well, only when my husband doesn't securely tie it to the wall the very first day.

Janga said...

I'm a traditionalist, and every room of my house is decorated. Santas, angels, teddy bears, and snowmen peep from every corner. I have a Christmas village in the living room and another in the dining room. The bathroom and kitchen towels sport are embroidered with wreaths and Santas. The tree is decorated with a hodge podge of ornaments, each of which has a story.

But I gave up the live tree this year. We bought one of the pre-lighted fakes. It looks pretty good, but it's just not the same. I have to get my Christmas smell fix from the wreaths. We also change the timing of our big family gathering every year. When the kids marry and have kids, there are other families' celebrations that have to be considered. This Christmas, the whole gang will be here for a huge mid-day meal; last year it was dinner. One year it was Christmas Eve. The important thing is that we will all celebrate together.

flchen1 said...

I have very few Christmas musts--we've got our fake tree out and up, covered with assorted ornaments that the kids have made or that we've received through the years. We do still do cookies, but not all from scratch, and we working on cards, because I do love the staying-in-touch part about Christmas :)

Keri Ford said...

I love the idea of Christmas plastered all over the walls. When I get in a bigger house, where I can entertain family, I plan to deck the walls!

The hubby and I collect ornaments from our travels, so when we get enough, guess what! I'm putting up TWO trees. One to show where we've been, and another more traditional tree with home-made ornaments.

MaryC said...

Our family Christmases alternate between my sister's and brother's homes. The party usually numbers between 20 - 25 attendees. We always had a real tree, until my brother got two dogs. After Barclay walked over to mark the tree(along with some gifts), we decided a fake one would be better.
It's noisy and fun, with lots of food and presents. Decorations have been adapted to ensure the safety of the younger children and the dogs. It's always crazy, but alot of fun.

Virginia said...

I don't have a Christmas must except going to my sisters house. I put up a small fake tree fiber optic which is kind of neat. I don't decorate for Christmas much anymore since my son has grown up. The last time I put lights up out side the house hubby didn't take them down until July so I haven't put them up anymore. Christmas is not the same when your children grow up. I still may get the lights out that goes on the porch.

ddurance said...

Well, the kids think that we "must" put up the Christmas train. I could personally live without it. LOL

What do I give space to all of my Christmas decorations, including bathrooms. LOL


Mary-Frances Makichen said...

Susie, I really enjoyed this post. I'm with you, I need that Christmas tree smell in the house. There have been a couple of years where, for one reason or another, we didn't get a tree. To compensate I put a bunch of wreaths up in the house to maintain the scent illusion:).

Jane said...

I would love to have a real tree, but we have a fake tree. We've had it for a long time. We have the same decorations, too. We usually buy them on sale after Christmas, so we've got that covered. We will be cutting back on the amount we spend on presents.

D Twomey said...

My only Christmas "must"? My Mom's turkey & dressing. You will not find anything better... and it's not Christmas without it!

Cindy Gerard said...

Susie - I think your mom and I are kindred spirits. I have things ALL OVER the house.
I also have 3 trees. One in my office (because that's where I spend most of my time) one in the sun room - because that's where DH spends most of his time. One in the LR because that's the one everyone sees when they come to the house.

I bought artificial trees for the office and sunroom because it was just too much of a hassle putting 3 real trees up. Welllll, it's kind of nice having them and a couple of years ago, I said uncle and bought one for the LR. I have to say - it's really beautiful, but I think it's beautiful because it contains the oldest, tackiest most ugly ornaments in the world. Most of them were made by the clumsy little hands of our son when he was little and have been added to by decorations we made with the grandchildren. When they come every year, the first thing they do is look for their ornaments hanging on the tree. I love it.

Pamk said...

visiting family and putting up a tree is a must. baking cookies with my son is a must so far.

Michele Hauf said...

I almost didn't put up the tree this year. But then The Boy came home for Thanksgiving and put it up. Of course it has only five ornaments on it due to the new kitty. It works for us.

I'm not much of a decorator, in fact, the tree is it. Does buying christmas candy and consuming it count?

Helen Brenna said...

Too funny Susie. I hear you two arguing.

Must have a real tree and stockings. Don't care about any of the rest of the decorations.

And we MUST do homemade eggrolls. Sounds like a silly must, but it somehow became a tradition several years ago and it's something my kids look forward to every year.

That's it.

flip said...

I also love the Christmas House...but it is not in the picture for me. I would have to remove all the clutter and flotsam of my life

catslady said...

roflmao My husband and I have the discussion about the size of the tree. Thank goodness he goes along with a real tree because I won't have it any other way either. We have two daughters (now grown). One sided with dad and wanted a charlie brown tree and the other with me - the bigger the better. I won more times than lost lol. My best tree ever was 3 years back when he thought it was smart to let my daughter's boyfriend go with me to get the tree (thought he was getting out of the torture of looking for the perfect one). What he didn't consider was that the boyfriend is 6'3" to his 5'6and gee all the trees didn't look so big until we got it in the house!!!! They've been huge for the last 2 years and I'm planning on him helping again this year lol.

Cathy said...

So far, my boys always make it home for Christmas, and a real tree is a definite must for them, with all their favorite decorations up and lights on everything. If it was just my dh and I, I would cut back on the extra decorating and go for a smaller tree. My mil has started sending tons of home made goodies as her family present, so a lot less baking for me, which I love.

FIONA said...

I wish we could have a real tree. My youngest son and I have asthma, and we get so sick when I "just try and see" if we can live with a real one.

Never again. Fake it is. But we do have two, on for the kids and one for us.

We decorate on the first Sunday of Advent, and then it's on to shopping. Christmas cards, with a Christmas letter for the extended family, are a must. Cookies are made in small batches (I do home made slice and bake) and then there are the kids' recitals (two this weekend) and work Christmas parties (three this weekend) and stuff at church.

We are escaping the week of Christmas and going to HI. We have been planning this for a year and are so excited.

Maureen said...

I do like a real tree and really enjoy the pine smell, it just reminds me of Christmas. Maybe someday I'll have a fake tree but for now we're sticking with the real one. I think the tree is the only must have for me. Everything else is negotiable, especially now that our kids are older.

Nathalie said...

My must is to have loads of chocolate and I am ready to sacrifice anything for them.

However, Christmas would not be the same without my family!

Margie said...

Hi Susie! Loved your post! It really made me laugh! My Christmas "musts" include putting up a tree (fake not real), baking a linzer torte that the women in my family have made every Christmas for generations, and having a big Christmas dinner. I'll be cutting back on the amount of money spent on presents, though, this year.

Jill James said...

I must have my great-grandma's butter cookies for Christmas. If I have to bake them on Christmas Eve we WILL have those cookies each year. It isn't Christmas without them.

Estella said...

I must have a tree(any kind). I have given up making fudge---too much temptation.

lunaticcafe said...

I'm one that decorates all over the house and I have a total of 4 trees in my tiny apartment. We have never been at our own home for the holidays because grandparents resort to violence if grandkids are not within eyesight on Dec. 25. Well this year, in the name of my own sanity, I have declared that we will be staying home and starting our own traditions- and that meant we HAD to pull out all the Christmas storage stuff:) Flyboy was thrilled... not! Me and the kids are over the moon.

So I have a 6 ft fake tree with all Disney ornaments, on chenille potted fake with old fashioned ornaments, on 2 ft silver with multi colored ornaments and a 3 ft fiber optic silver tree with rudolph and the misfit toys. I also pulled out the village, stuffed animals, nutcrackers etc.

What I am giving up is the cooking thing. I will make a traditional family dinner but I draw the line at baking cookies and making fudge. Betty Crocker I'm not! I want to avoid twitching and house fires:)

Eshani said...

Susie, I really enjoyed your Christmas tree story *grin*, and I'm completely with you about the importance of a real tree (even if it's small).
My favorite Christmas "must" is decorating the tree with the entire family. We have a tradition where we have hot chocolate (the real kind, not from the packets) and ginger cake (an old family recipe) and decorate together. It really gets everyone into the Christmas spirit. Even though every year my mother gets slightly irritated when someone breaks one of her precious ornaments (happens every year. *grin*)

Cheri2628 said...

A Christmas "must" for me is decorating the tree with ornaments I have collected through the years. Every year we get a few new ones to represent vacation spots and family milestones. Another "must" is just being with family.

I have cut back a little on spending and decorating, but not much because Christmas is my favorite time of year!

kimmyl said...

Decorating inside and out is amust. I love decorating but this year I have given up decorating the outside. I just do not have time. Being a single mom and raising 2 kids is enough. Besides I decorate the inside and bake cookies, make candy for the kids teachers and other families and fix a big Christmas dinner too.

Deborah said...

Hi Susie! Being with my family and cooking a big Christmas dinner is a must. I've cut back on some of my decorating and spending this year.

Lori T said...

For me the Christmas musts are of course the tree...we have an artificial one because my Mom was really allergic and when I grew up we just went with the artificial plus my son has some allergies, so why tempt fate.

Having the family around is another must for me.

I have given up Christmas baking...which kind of makes me feel bad, but heck where does the time go?

robynl said...

Musts are 2 small artificial trees : 1 in the living room and 1 in the kitchen on the table.
Giving up is too much baking; at one time I used to bake 13 different goodies and then make up trays and give to my siblings and parents. I now bake app. 7 items. We also cut down on the outdoor deco and just have 2 lighted reindeer and lights on the house.
I also gave up making decorations such as wreaths, tree ornaments since Mom passed away 5 yrs. ago. Each year my sisters, sister-in-law and Mom would get together and make a decoration or ornament.

Laurie said...

I must have a tree with all the ornaments we've collected or the kids have made throughout the years! I play X-mas music for the 2 weeks before X-mas. I have to have some presents under the tree BUT we do need to cut back drastically this year.
Cookies I will bake with the kids but we will make smaller amounts and give them to people instead of gifts.
Give Up Lights outside.
Happy Holidays!

CrystalGB said...

My christmas musts are having a tree and listening to Christmas music. I can do without baking holiday treats and going to Christmas parties.