Family tradition of cutting a Christmas tree

Coming in from the cold, Thomas has again agreed to be a guest writer, and to share his interpretation of an annual family Christmas tradition.
A Visit From Christmas Past December 6, 2008

The first weekend in December has typically marked an important Holiday occasion in my family; it is the weekend of the Tannenbaum. This particularly chilly morning, just shy of 40° Fahrenheit, yet sunny enough to warrant the use of sunglasses, we set out to claim our dendrologic sample. It is my first logging expedition in some time, and in my absence a newer “Ma & Pa” style plot had replaced our standard grove as the destination. The layout is unfamiliar but the smell sparks my memories, replaying them in a nostalgic, sepia-grained film reel. I can’t help but smile as the visions pass by me; reminding me of the times I’ve made similar treks before.

We are not alone in this sanctuary of trees. Other lumberjack families have ventured out into this urban forest to claim their perfect tree, many seemingly their first time; young mothers in chic Ugg boots, small children fantasizing the saws they clutch are real bows, and new fathers in their compensating trucks.

Our first find was a full-bodied grand fir, almost perfect, but not quite. A few more specimens catch our eyes, but they are not the right one; their branches are turned upwards, the needles limp, or they have holes in their structure. Our search is not arduous, the brisk autumn air isn’t biting and the trees are standing in attention for our inspection.

At last a glimmer appears before us. The morning dew sparkles like diamonds on the deep green needles of a conifer like no other. It stands upright, reaching toward the heavens, easily a foot above my hat. This Abies Grandis is the one for us, our perfect centerpiece. We pay homage to its beauty by capturing a copy for our records, keeping it alive in our family’s history.

Knowing what must come next, I sigh softly, but am not saddened. We do not mourn those that die fulfilling their destiny, and no one contested our actions. I gingerly touch the teeth of my saw, one that has cut down many of our past trees, and prepare to sacrifice a sapling for our Holiday enjoyment. Though it is not my hand that guides the blade, I play my part in its forced martyrdom. The needles grace my sleeves, but do not puncture, and the boughs reluctantly spread to allow me to grasp the trunk of the truly grand fir.

My father kneels to its base and lays the forged steel to the frost laded earth and begins to cut; slowly and methodically the blade slides through the wood, gnawing through the sinew with ease and grace. Before making the final cuts my father sits back on his heels, drawing in deep breaths, resting momentarily. I feel at ease as I’m comforting the tree in its last movements at its only known home; there is no anger or malice in the spirits here, nor fear or grief. All is calm in this new-found grove, and now it does not seem so alien to me.

Between my father and I, we are able to escort our find to its carriage for transport. Satisfied with our selection we embark on the return journey to our family’s house, eager to make a spot to display our treasure. Arriving home, we swiftly bring our tree into the safety of our backyard cloister. After a deft trimming the tree is ready to bridge the annual gap between the domains of nature and man. Spreading its branches wide, like open arms, the tree touches the fixtures of this new environment, gathering its bearings. A trail of glossy needles and a lingering aroma remain in its path, announcing its presence to the household.

A drape of fine crimson velvet and a solid iron stand full of pure spring water await the coming of our find. The water parts to allow the trunk to settle, quickly wrapping around it in a blissful embrace. A quick alignment and pivoting provides the most visually appealing display; the bold emerald tree back-lit by the azure sky showing through the window alone is enough to steal one’s breath. However, our work, our praise, is not finished; a garland of platinum lights is draped through its stoic boughs, a shining star marks its summit, and our collection of ancestral ornaments twinkle colorfully throughout its body.

At last, our Tannenbaum, our perfect tree, is home, its spirit blending with the others dwelling under the roof, filling them with holiday cheer. The season has started.

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