The end of an era is always significant. For one reason or another. Some good. Some not so good. We have just experienced one that has had a very mixed reaction. As long as I can remember, we have always had a fresh Christmas tree. There is something very special about it. Inside, the house smells like a forest.
In Finland we lived in Jyväskylä, a large city. So it was a trip to the market in the early morning of Christmas Eve. Great care was taken in selecting just the right tree. It was carried home and trimmed with real candles that were lit at night. Just think about that! Proper wax dripping candles on special candle holder pegs that clipped onto the branches. A star decorated the top. The branches were laden with edible decorations – gingerbread biscuits, sweets, apples. Tradition stated the tree was not to be taken down until Epiphany – the end of the period known widely as the 12 Days of Christmas. This period starts on December 25th and finishes on January 6th.
On moving to Australia we continued, as a family, to follow our home country traditions. At first the only notable change was that there were no fir trees in Tasmania. Our first Australian Christmas Tree was a few branches of eucalyptus! It felt very odd. Not just the tree. The whole thing. It was hot. Days were long and light. There was no snow. To this day I still miss having a white Christmas.
When I married my very Finnish husband we continued these traditions. (We met in the middle of the searing Queensland desert heat at Mt Isa as 16 year olds. Yes, you can find Finns almost anywhere in the world!) By then it was possible to buy pine trees. Eventually we stumbled across a proper Christmas tree farm. Their trees were carefully pruned several times a year to ensure optimal shape.
An annual trip to the Christmas Tree Farm in mid December became a new tradition. The kids used to love the long drive there and back. There were always new born kittens to ooh and aah over. And of course the all important tree selection. At home the tree was ceremoniously placed into its purpose-built container and trimmed.
As the kids grew older, the novelty of the trip, tree trimming and care wore off. If the water was not kept topped up the needles would turn brown and fall off making a right mess on the floor. Do you know how hard it is to vacuum pine needles? Don’t bother even trying!
So the tree trip fell back to us olds. To be totally accurate – the husband and his brother. Either together or taking turns to squeeze the trip into a busy work schedule. This was not exactly conducive to joyful Yuletide preparations. It became a stressful chore.
I started pushing for an artificial tree. To be precise, a fibre optic one. Shock horror! Not to be at all contemplated. Two years ago our faithful Christmas tree stand gave in to old age. He made a new one. It lasted one Christmas. Even then, it leaked water all over the floor as the water proofing was faulty.
This year the discussion about the tree became very serious. I assured him that I could bring the forest smell into the house by diffusing essential oils. We finally reached consensus that it was time to bite the bullet and make it less stressful. Yesterday we drove to many, many different shops looking at trees. Not nice. No decent size fibre optic ones at all. I turned to Dr Google.
To my amazement I found a Christmas Shop at the other end of town that advertised fibre optic trees and all things Christmassy. So today we drove there. Boy oh boy!! Talk about Christmas overload! Everywhere you turned there were baubles, tinsel, trees with and without ornaments. It was a veritable maze of Christmas delights.
Choosing a tree was not as easy as we had expected. It had to be just right. Not too small. Not too big. Right shape – bushy and lush. Price became a major point of discussion. A decent size fibre optic tree was WAY out of our budget range. In the end we settled on one we were both happy with. It cost us more than we had expected but we figured it would last us for the rest of our natural lives.
Once home, we assembled it, strung the firecracker lights (yes, that is what they are called). Then…. I was left to do the rest on my own. The husband stated he had discharged his duties. The tree hunting expedition this year had taken longer than a trip to the Christmas Tree farm.
Son number two walked in and saw me decorating. He wasn’t interested. His only comment …. Let’s put it this way. He wasn’t impressed. He wanted the real thing. He wanted the smell.
Son number one came home from work. He was more polite. He said it looked very nice. But it was not the same as a real tree. His girlfriend exclaimed at the cost.
I decorated the tree in red and gold. It looks gorgeous. And the diffuser is wafting foresty smells of Idaho Blue Spruce into our home. Yes, it is the end of an era. Sometimes change is good. And those who don’t agree will eventually come to like it.
© Raili Tanska