Christmas began on Monday in my house, when my husband brought a beautiful Fraser Fir home. We decorated it that night, with Nat King Cole crooning in the background. The only thing missing to provide the perfect setting was some snow lightly falling on the ground.
The tree is one of the best parts of Christmas, and the long-standing debate over whether fake or real trees are better is not one that is easily decided. Having lived in both worlds, I stand in the middle, with a preference for real trees but a fondness for the fake tree, which was my parents' preferred form of tree when I was a kid.
We had a certain ritual when it came to putting the tree together in the Stark family. Since we used the same tree year after year, eventually we got it down to a science. My brothers and I were like a well-oiled machine. We would haul the box containing the tree parts downstairs from the attic a few days before Christmas. My dad was pretty strict on how soon the tree could be put up, but as we got older, the date was pushed farther and farther back, until it started going up about halfway through December.
After we brought the tree downstairs, my dad would curse at the defective tree stand that never held the tree quite right as we separated the different-sized branches by color. Each one had a band that signified how far up the trunk it was supposed to go. We'd put all the branches on the tree, fluff them out and then decorate it with lights and ornaments.
We broke from tradition once or twice.
One year, we put the tree in the corner of the living room instead of the middle and had to tie it to the wall, since we couldn't fit the branches all the way around the trunk. It was top heavy on one side and leaned forward.
Another year, we used a string of lights that had big bulbs instead of small ones. We left the lights on overnight and came downstairs to find a wrapped present burned in one spot and the tree skirt scorched.
These days, I favor a real tree over a fake one. I like the smell of fresh pine that greets me when I walk in my door. The tree stand my husband and I have is far superior to the one my dad used and requires much less cursing to make it work.
This year we've hung our decorations on the top half of the tree only, in case our new dog decides to chew on something he shouldn't when neither of us are in the room. The tree looks weird, admittedly, but it makes me smile a little whenever I look at it. However, I'm not expecting that to turn into a new Christams tradition.
We don't yet have a tree-trimming ritual as in-depth as the one my family had. But who knows? In 10 years my husband could be cursing at our defunct tree stand while I stand in the background, overseeing the proceedings, pointing out where things should go.
That's what Christmas is all about - making traditions with family and sharing them for years to come.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jackie Stark is a Chocolay Township resident and a staff reporter at The Mining Journal. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.