It was spitting snow and appropriately nippy when we set out on Saturday to fetch our Christmas tree from Bill McKenna’s stand in Glenville.
“A perfect day to get the tree,” I remarked as we drove north.
We got our tree there last year, too, and it was a beauty. This year’s model took a little longer to select — it has to be as close to perfect as possible — and is a little smaller, only about 8 feet tall, but it looks beautiful in our front room window where it will no doubt be greatly admired by passersby.
Our choice was a Fraser fir. When I say “our choice,” understand that I fill only a kind of decorative role in these matters and if that means I’ve been marginalized, I can live with it. In truth — and let’s keep this between us — I wouldn’t care if the tree were plastic if it meant that it could be put up with less trouble than the real deal requires.
We have a tree stand that is as close to perfect as any I’ve come across. There’s a little disk that you screw to the bottom of the tree and then you hoist the tree into the stand. The little disk gives it some stability to start with and you tighten up four eye bolts to affix the tree in the stand.
The trouble is it never stands laser-straight. It’s always listing one way or the other. So I loosen a bolt and shove the tree this way and loosen another and shove it that way. This goes on for some time until, finally, the tree is declared “as straight as it’s going to be,” and I get up from underneath it and head off to scrape pine pitch off my hands.
It’s a wonderful holiday tradition of ours that’s usually followed by strong spirits.
Then, the next day we begin the Decorating of the Tree.
I capitalize the event because it can be a major undertaking, spread out over several days, and there’s a lot of stepping back to look at the tree from a wider perspective and then a rearranging of things.
This year, we bought some new balls — big turquoise baubles — to match our walls, which were transformed from off-white to aqua while we were on vacation this fall.
Beverly says she doesn’t want to put all the ornaments on the tree this year. Sensing her “less is more” mood, I’m thinking I’ll suggest the big turquoise balls and some lights might be sufficient. But, even as I write that, I know it’s not going to happen.
In some ways I think the early Christmas tree traditions were better.
Hanging a tree from the ceiling can’t be any more difficult than placing one upright and making it stand perfectly straight in your living room.
There has been a lot of research about the origin of the Christmas tree, which probably dates from pagan times and the Saturnalia celebrations.
In Riga, the capital of Latvia, the first documented use of an evergreen tree to mark Christmas and the new year occurred in 1510. There’s a sign in the town square memorializing the historical event in eight languages.
That tree was said to be erected by men wearing black hats. After the tree was put up, they torched it.
Not a bad idea at all.
Irv Dean is the Gazette’s city editor. Reach him by email to email@example.com.