Right around the same time my mom lost interest in being a mother, she also lost interest in decorating the house for Christmas.
“A tree is just too much work,” she informed me when I returned home for the holidays my freshman year of high school. I recalled this happening a few years before with Easter Eggs and how since she’d refused to buy an Easter Egg dye kit, I had taken it upon myself to hollow out eggs and paint them using different colors of Jell-o mix and acrylic paints. Easter was one thing, but now Christmas, too?
It was now clear that if I wanted any holiday cheer in my house, it was going to be up to me to provide it. So I recruited my brother and we went down to the storage room, collected the ornaments and lights, and proceeded to spend the evening decorating, well, a Ficus Tree. We even set up the electric train around the base.
It was “work,” yes, but it was important work. And while the Ficus Tree didn’t have that smell of fresh pine needles that fills the house and your soul with Christmas Cheer, when we stepped back and admired the twinkling lights, the ornaments, each one with a memory attached, the Bear-Angel at the top of the tree, and the train inching along around the planter, we felt a sense of accomplishment. We’d even managed to go the entire night without fighting. It was a Christmas Miracle.
That was the last “Christmas Tree” I decorated for the next 15 years. Finally, when I moved into a grown-up apartment of my very own, I convinced my boyfriend at the time to go with me to the Christmas Tree lot to pick out a tree.
I had a strict budget ($80) and size (6 feet) in mind. When we arrived, I was so overwhelmed with the choices that I decided I needed to look at each and every tree before making a decision. He was ELATED.
I finally found one, a Douglas Fir, that seemed like it might be a good fit, but then I heard one of the guys who worked there talking about a similar tree to a nearby family.
“This one here will shed needles all over your floor. And those branches? Horrible for holding ornaments. They’ll snap right off.” I quickly realized the Douglas Fir was the “common person’s” Christmas tree and that I simply could not live with that. It was going to have to be a Noble Fir or nothing.
Several minutes (30) later, I’d been talked into a seven-and-a-half-foot-tall Noble Fir that with a water bucket and bundling would run me a cool $135. But that wasn’t the worst part. Oh, no. After dragging the tree to the front, sawing off the stump, attaching the stand, wrapping it all up, and tying it to the top of my car, the guy who helped me hung around expectantly. I tried to coolly shake his hand and palm him a 10-dollar bill as a tip, but as I did so, I completely spazzed out and--
FINE. I HUGGED HIM. I took him into my arms and I squeezed him with all of my might.
Me! The biggest hug-hater in all of the land. I HUGGED THE RANDOM CHRISTMAS TREE GUY while handing him a 10-dollar bill.
And let me tell you, I’ve never seen anyone recoil faster or with more disgust. It was truly amazing. I was appalled, clearly -- at my behavior, not his -- so I turned around, ran to the driver’s side of my car as fast as I could all the while yelling, “I’m so sorry! I don’t know why I just hugged you! I’M SO SORRY!”
The damage was done though. I still wake up at 3 a.m., my mind replaying the awkward motion of my long arms enveloping his small body and bringing him toward me tightly.
So that was it for me and Christmas trees for a while, until the morning my boyfriend (new dude, huge improvement) rang my doorbell unexpectedly. When I opened up the door, there he was, a ginormous tree sprawled out on the ground behind him.
“What? Huh? Where? Why?” It takes a to render me speechless, but he’d succeeded.
“My dad cut it down for you from our backyard.”
That’s right. My boyfriend’s dad cut down a CHRISTMAS TREE for me from their backyard, which just happened to be a huge forest 200 miles east of where I lived.
“He cut it down in the snow and then dragged it through the woods and tied it onto his car. Then he drove it to me and I put it on top of my car. And, well, here you go. Merry Christmas. I wanted you to have a real tree.”
You totally hate your significant other just a little bit right now, don’t you? If not, you should. Because seriously? A TREE. FROM THE FOREST.
Oh, and don’t worry. It was a tree that needed to be cleared in order to allow new growth, so it wasn’t even tree murder or anything horrible.
I’ve never loved a tree so much. I said “hi” and “bye” to it every time I came and went. I stayed in as many nights as possible in order to spend quality time with it during its dying days. I watered it diligently, decorated it in the very best way, and proudly displayed it in the window for all to see. “Oh, you think your tree from the lot is good? MY TREE IS FROM TAHOE.” Humility: not my thing.
Alas, I broke up with him for reasons I’m still dealing with in therapy and have never had another tree again.
However, that does not preclude me from having some very serious rules when it comes to Christmas Trees. I don’t know where these rules came from (Lie: They’re WASP policies), but they’re important to me and so therefore should be important to you. (Kidding. Not really.) I know people say that decorating your tree shouldn’t be about rules, but those people are wrong.
And so, with no further ado:
TEN RULES FOR A SUCCESSFUL CHRISTMAS TREE
10. Your home is a hospice for your tree.
Don’t forget that. Try not to neglect it. Water it often. Don’t let it linger too long when it’s days are over. Put it on the curb where it belongs so it can die with dignity. Seriously though. If your tree is up past January 2nd, you have issues. I personally think it should come down on December 26th, but if you insist on having it up for New Year’s Eve, I won’t judge you (too much). If your tree is still up in mid-January though, you should probably start cutting yourself or something.
9. If you’re having a tree-trimming party, you should already have the lights on the tree before your guests arrive.
Seriously, no one comes to a tree-trimming party to do actual work -- they’re just there to eat cookies and get drunk -- so don’t punish people with the worst part. Also: if you’re attending a tree-trimming party, you’re required to bring an ornament as well as a bottle of alcohol. I know YOU know this, but some people don’t, so just bear with me.
8. Test all of the lights before you put them on the tree.
I know. It seems obvious and yet. Also, apparently you’re supposed to start placing the lights from the bottom up. I have never done this in my entire life and therefore this is one of the rare times where I will readily admit: I WAS WRONG (apparently). If the Internet says bottom moving up, then bottom moving up it must be.
7. If you’re new to the whole tree decorating thing and don’t have a lot of ornaments, don’t fret.
There are tons of creative ways to decorate without running out and buying cheesy multi-colored balls (ew). One year when we lived in London and didn’t have our decorations (oh, my rough life!), we strung popcorn and cranberries onto string. With my last two trees, I bought wide stiff ribbon and tied it into bows around the limbs. Anything can be an ornament: cookie cutters, candy canes, and more.
6. Choose a theme for your Christmas Tree.
When I was little, the theme was “tacky.” My mom might not appreciate my admitting that, but seriously: every ornament from the past 20 years went on that thing and it was glorious. My favorite? A wooden “hippy” she’d hand-painted during a crafts phase. I don’t have a lot of ornaments, so my theme for my last tree was “silver and gold.” With an occasional splash of “49ers’ red,” of course.
5. No matter how tacky your theme, it is never okay to use tinsel.
That is all.
4. Lights à Garland à Ornaments à Topper.
Again: by garland, I do not mean tinsel. Also, every tree needs a skirt.
3. White trees are for irony only.
Oh, and irony is dead; therefore: don’t get a white tree.
2. Even though you know best exactly where every single ornament should go, don’t be selfish.
Let others help with the trimming. Especially if he brought you the tree from his backyard. (You can totally go back and rearrange everything later. In fact, you SHOULD do exactly that.)
1. Last, and certainly not least: NEVER USE COLORED LIGHTS ON YOUR TREE.
White lights only, people. And none of this blinking crap. Yes, I get that this may be the most controversial rule of all. That it may cause an uproar. But, my friends, it’s important. I don’t care if people say it’s outdated. Or that colored lights are more magical. A tree with self-respect is a tree with white lights. And your tree is DYING. Don’t you want it to do so with dignity?
No matter what, just remember:
Just because you're WASPy some of the time...
Doesn't mean you can't have more fun than everyone else.
Sadly, this is yet another year where my home is empty of any Christmas decorations. I plan to spend the next few weeks hiding from the holidays in the mountains, only returning home for Christmas Eve where once again we’ll play the “How long until Daisy cries?” game. Feel free to place your bets in the comment.
OR, better yet: Tell me your rules for decorating your tree. TEAM WHITE LIGHTS or TEAM COLORED LIGHTS? TAKE SIDES, PEOPLE. This is important stuff.
Follow @daisy on Twitter for other really important rules of life that no one cares to follow.