Yes, it is that time of the year. Soon it will be my responsibility to put up our Christmas tree. Although my wife decorates it, I set it upright and put on the lights. I have the fondest memories of shopping for a tree. As a kid I remember going with my dad to a local lot at night and it being really cold, perhaps with snowflakes. Then decades later, it was me in the same local lot with my kids.
My favorite Christmas tree story was buying a tree way uptown in NYC when I lived on the upper east side. I had a VW Cabrio convertible. On this particular night I was wearing a suit and wool overcoat. After the purchase I literally put the top down and had the tree hanging out the back seat. Then in freezing cold, I drove the tree down Park Avenue with the top down and the tree swaying while hanging out of the car. It was cold, but it was fun, too.
In 2007, I was assigned to write about the annual sale of Christmas trees in Bridgehampton on Route 27 and Lockwood. Back in those days there was a Santa Claus waving to cars in front of the Small Potato Nursery. At that time, they had been selling Christmas trees at that location during the holiday season for 30 years. The trees sold there were actually selected by owner Elizabeth Linker in Nova Scotia personally every year. Some dude dressed as Santa would be out in the road every night right up until Christmas.
Going to pick trees with my daughters was always fun. Getting two young girls to agree on one tree was a chore. Watching them observing the tree being tied to our car’s roof for the ride to the house was special. The drive home was always filled with joyous fun, excitement and lots of Christmas cheer. Squeezing the tree through the front door to the prized spot in the living room without destroying it was an acquired skill.
There are many theories for decorating a tree. I always put the lights on first, then my wife does the ornaments and finally the artificial icicles. I have always loved model trains since I received model H.O. trains for Christmas when I was seven years old back in 1959! My kids enjoyed watching the small train go around the tree. When they were young, they would just go grab the train, but thankfully they grew out of that!
For under the tree, we used to have a little “Hummel-like village” of structures including a church, lighthouse, school, bakery and town hall along with a few cool Victorian homes. And of course, those structures were placed on white cotton blankets with glitter that they sold in those days.
It is amazing the evolution of Christmas lights we put on the trees. When I was young in the 1950s, we had thin needle lights that were like individual lava lamps. Then came the invention of lights that flickered. Now there are LED lights with settings that can flicker, fade and even gyrate to music.
My mom had the oldest and coolest collection of Christmas tree balls. They would be stored in those old rectangular ornament boxes. She kept them up in the attic and down in the basement. Many times, pieces of last year’s tree might still somehow be in the boxes along with the tiny metal hooks to hang them on the tree.
Lately buying a real Christmas tree has become expensive. We now have an artificial tree we roll out every year. It doesn’t have the smell or the magic of sap dripping out of it, but it fits in our special tree spot in the kitchen. I swore years ago I’d never get an artificial tree. I suppose I swore I’d never grow old, too.
Come those weeks before Christmastime I always feel like a kid again. I love to listen to the old Christmas songs and look at the tree. While staring I think back to so many wonderful days of Christmases past with my parents and then my kids as they grew up.
I believe Christmas is a most wonderful time of the year. On my walks with my wife, we walk past pine trees. I always smell the pine scent and think of Christmas season. When Thanksgiving has passed, it’s time to start thinking about setting up this year’s Christmas tree.