This is my Christmas tree. It’s a 7 foot, artificial, pre-lit number that I’ve had for about three years. Growing up, we always had real trees. And while I miss them, I like the fact that I can put my tree up after Thanksgiving and it looks just as beautiful past the New Year. No saggy, dry branches or shedding needles. To get the smell of the tree, I buy a real wreath and hang it on the back of the front door. Voilà!
I’m a bit of a snob about Christmas trees, decorations and the like, so it wasn’t an easy decision to go with an artificial tree. I used to scoff at people with who had them. I used to say it was like having “a Bobble head Jesus in the manger”. It just wasn’t right. Now, I just make myself an eggnog, sit on the couch and revel in my excellent taste in ornaments.
Now, let’s talk about ornaments. I’m very picky. I know what I like and what I don’t like. I never liked the idea of having a tree-trimming party because I knew that I’d probably hate most of the ornaments that people brought me and even if I liked some of them, I knew I’d end up re-arranging them properly after everyone left. It’s much too stressful to smile at the tacky “Surfin’ Santa” ornament and exclaim, “I love it!” Then you have to put it up every year because you know that friend will look for it next Christmas. It’s much easier to buy your own ornaments.
You may be asking just what my ornament and decorating rules are. Excellent question. Thank you for playing along. Feel free to adopt these for yourself if you’re so inclined.
1. Stick with classic, old fashioned ornaments
For me, this is Victorian. Among my collection I have porcelain Santa faces, Tiny Tim holding a plum pudding, assorted angels and an antique bird.
There are none of the following on my tree: Disney figurines, folk art animals, cats on skateboards, Santa engaging in any un-Santa like behavior (i.e., surfing, riding a motorcycle, doing the hula, etc.)
2. Ornaments must rest securely and perfectly on a branch
This means that there is enough room below the ornament for it to hang as it was intended. No forcing an ornament into a space where it ends up resting on the branch below. That will not do. You must have a mix of long and short ornaments to make sure proper placement can be achieved.
3. Minimize the number of ornament sets
In essence, try to buy more individual ornaments instead of those boxes of identical green balls, red stars and silver bells. I admit to having some of these sets, but each year I cut down as I buy more individual ornaments. If you must use ornament sets, be sure to space them out around the tree and for goodness sake, don’t put two of the same set next to each other!
4. Don’t skimp on the back of the tree
Yes, I know it may face a wall or a window, but true Christmas tree connoisseurs will look at the back of your tree and judge it just as much as they’re judging the front of your tree. So be sure to decorate it just as seriously as the front. And don’t try hiding the ugly ornaments back there. We see them.
5. Take your time with decorating
This is where that artificial tree helps out. This year’s tree took me about three days to properly decorate. Part of the reason is because I’m getting older and I get exhausted and crankier much faster. But mainly it’s because I want to take care with each ornament and find the right spot for it. It’s not just for show that I do this. It’s because each ornament holds a memory for me.
When I hold this rocking horse, I remember when I bought it at Harrod’s when I was in England in 1990.
This is one of my few concessions to a non-traditional ornament. I made this bell out of a milk carton in kindergarten. It reminds me of my teacher, Mrs. Schmale and how sweet she was to me.
This crocheted Santa was made by an old German lady named Mrs. Mockel who lived across the street from me when I was a child. Her daughter and son-in-law owned the corner grocery store. It reminds me of all the great neighbors who helped shape me into the person I am today.
Perhaps the old-fashioned theme of my tree is about more than the types of ornaments I display. It’s about what those ornaments represent. They remind me of the past, whether that was my own past growing up in the 1960s and 1970s or a time when ancestors of mine decorated their trees with candles instead of lights and utilized whatever materials were available or popular at the time.
So, if you’re celebrating Christmas and are starting to trim your tree, be sure to enjoy it and make the tree your own. What do you want it to express to the world? It doesn’t have to be like mine (although it would do my ego good). It just has to bring you joy when you look at it.
May your hooks be strong, your branches be firm and your memories be pleasant. I wish you the happiest of holidays, Surfin’ Santa or not.