By David Kittredge
“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know…”
The weekend after Thanksgiving is the ideal time to shop for a fresh coniferous tree for your Christmas décor. If you purchase a fresh tree, usually indicated by pulling on the selected tree’s boughs to ensure the needles are still well attached, it should last through the holidays until the second of January. Also, shopping for a tree early will help to avoid the Charlie Brown ugly tree syndrome with many to choose from.
On the other end of the spectrum is the perfect conical tree syndrome where the greenery is so dense that an ornament couldn’t possibly hang straight down, or plumb, as it should, but would dangle at an unnatural angle, off to one side, as if being affected by a stiff northerly breeze.
There are many considerations when purchasing the “perfect” tree for the family home. The first is heighth, which is in direct ratio with cost. Often times purchasers of a new home with a cathedral ceiling opt to have a taller tree than they’ve ever had before to reach the apex of the new ceiling, purchasing a monumental tree that would normally grace a town common. The newly situated family, might not realize until after erecting the colossal fir, that the ornaments they have on hand which have satisfied their decorating needs during Christmases past, are inadequate because the size and area of their twelve footer has doubled, leaving the tree décor looking very sparse and thus Charlie Brownish.
The first of the décor placed on the Yule tree is the topmast ornament which is usually a star or an angel. It’s important to have picked an evergreen with a single spired branch at the top rather than a multiple fronded pitchfork. Now the strands of lights can be wrapped around.. Thankfully, these days the lights are minute thus cooler than the bulbs in days of yore and if a light burns out you merely replace it. When I was young, as soon as I could reach high enough, I was appointed to the job of bulb replacement. If one bulb blew, the whole strand of lights would be extinguished, so you had to systematically check each bulb by unscrewing the individual lights until you happened upon the right one. Don’t ask me to explain the reason for this electrical engineering malfeasance. I was told by my eighth grade shop teacher, Mr. Littlefield, that as an electrician I would make a good coalminer as I mangled an attempt to wire a series of lightbulbs. I have always lived by the mantra that “electricity is magic” since that unenlightening moment.
Next comes the garland which can range from tiny store-bought strings of pearl sized baubles to handsewn strings of popcorn at times interspersed with bright red cranberries, or merely chains of alternating colored rings made of paper. Homemade garland is a good idea to involve the impatient and soon to be overwrought munchkins who oftentimes are champing at the reins like Rudolf with his shiny nose on Christmas Eve.
Now comes the time to place the ornaments, which involves certain guidelines. Large ornaments are placed at the bottom of the tree, medium sized baubles in the middle, with the smaller, lightweight ornaments donning the upper boughs. The reason for this is twofold, the lower boughs are thicker so they can withstand the heaviness of a larger adornments. This arrangement is more aesthetically pleasing, than the haphazard, willy-nilly disregard of bulb size, as far as I am concerned. Here you might denote a snippet of nitpicking on my part. Well you are probably right in that assumption, but I shall not be compromised in my long held tree trimming tenets, by cracky!
To tinsel or not to tinsel, that is the question, because once you start you must spend hours in the laborious, persnickety placement of individual strands of reflective mylar onto your tree. Again when I was young, we would tinsel the tree with great care, one icicle at a time, while my father watched to make sure no one, usually me, was defying the prescribed rules laid down by the tinsel czar. In those days, the tinsel was made from aluminum and would break easily if not handled carefully which added to the exasperation. Due sheerly to heredity, along with certain odd personality traits, I now am the reigning tinsel czar, overseeing the proper placement of tinsel with great pompous perusal and zealous scrutiny. I have even given many a pre-tinseling, didactic oration covering the theorem on my accepted truths involving the placement of said tinsel beforehand, which oftentimes weeds out the recalcitrant icicling ne’er do wells to actually mutiny. Heavy lies the crown.
Unfortunately, the eye beholding pleasure of fastidious tinsel placement is usually short lived until Fido joyfully starts waving its tail near the Christmas tree, emitting a tinsel entangling whirlwind. Who’s a good boy? Or when Felix the cat decides to climb the tree for no obvious reason other than sheer playfulness. Nice kitty.
One further note on the fine art of tinseling, never, ever under any circumstances do you simply stand back and toss the tinsel onto the tree out of sheer exasperation or to merely unload a lingering leftover few strands. Tinsel tossing is verboten!
I merely jest, for the most part, anyway.
“And may all your Christmases be white.”