Tuesday, November 29, 2016

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

There's been a lot of yaying and naying lately about the issue of decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving. Like most things in life, there are various reasons why people choose when to do their Christmas decorating and how they do it. I like to have my tree up by Thanksgiving, and here's why.

I'm a procrastinator. In fact, I'm The Queen of Procrastination and while you might think putting up a Christmas tree before Thanksgiving is contrary to procrastinating, it's actually my way of trying to overcome my affliction. If my house is already in the Christmas spirit, then I'm much more likely to be in the spirit too and get my shopping done before Christmas Eve. It's supposed to work that way in theory anyway.

Now, let's get this whole "celebrating one holiday at a time" thing out of the way. I love Thanksgiving. LOVE. IT. Family, good food, Macy's parade, football (I can't believe I even said that), and relaxing with no guilt about doing it. But of course, Thanksgiving is also all about being grateful for your blessings and our family sure has plenty of those to be thankful for. Just thinking about them puts me in a festive mood.

Christmas decorations put me in a festive mood, too, and as a Christian, the birth of Christ is a blessing to be thankful for. So Thanksgiving is the perfect way to usher in the Christmas season by being first thankful and then celebrating by sharing with others in the form of gifts. Having Christmas decorations up at Thanksgiving just isn't a conflict of interest for me. It's all just one big, long lovefest.

Part of what makes this early decorating possible is that we don't put up a real tree. This year will make the 41st Christmas my husband and I have celebrated as man and wife and in all those years, the only time we had a real tree was our first Christmas. I saved a pine cone from that tree, framed it, and it sits out all year long on a bookshelf.

 I have a fear of a dried-out real Christmas tree going up in flames due to some sort of lighting malfunction and I don't need that kind of stress. Not when there are perfectly lovely artificial trees that give the same effect. I understand the whole experience of shopping for the tree and making that an event in itself, but I'm willing to forgo that for safety's sake.

If you're a real tree kind of person, let me help you keep your cut tree as safe as possible by giving you some tips:

  • Firs, pines, and spruces will hold onto their needles equally well, but the biggest factor for this will be how long it's been since the tree was cut. Unless you cut the tree yourself, you probably have no way of really knowing this. If the tree is losing more than a few needles when you shake it or pull your hand along one of its branches, pick another tree.

  •  Just before you put your Christmas tree in its stand, make a fresh cut straight across, at the base of the trunk, removing at least a half-inch of wood. Sap begins to seal off the cut so making a fresh cut will allow the tree to better absorb water.
  • Do NOT whittle away any of the wood on the sides of the trunk to make it fit in the stand, because it's the outer layer of the trunk (the cambium) just under the bark that transfers the water up into the rest of the tree. Drilling a hole up into the middle of the tree trunk won't help the tree take up water, so don't bother.
  • Water temperature won't affect uptake and there's no proof that adding substances to the water really helps prolong freshness, so don't waste your time doing that either. Check your water level every day to make sure you keep the base of the trunk submerged. 
  • Keep your tree well away from any heat source, and the cooler you keep the room, the longer the tree will last before drying out.
  • Choose low energy lights, such as LED lights or in the case of incandescent lighting, the miniature ones give off less heat, lowering chances of causing dry needles to ignite. Of course, if your tree is that dry and brittle, it shouldn't be in your house anyway. 

The holidays hold special meaning for each of us, so let's all enjoy them in our own way and pray for peace. I think we can all agree we need more of that, no matter what time of year it is.

A similar version of "O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree" first appeared in my In the Garden weekly column in the Paulding Progress newspaper on December 2, 2015.

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