Oh Christmas Tree!

It’s quite traditional to have an evergreen tree decorated to become a Christmas tree.

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There are so many types of trees to choose now a days.  There’s the Spruce, Douglas Fir, Noble Fir, Nordstrom, Grand Fir and even a Charlie Brown tree.  I am talking about the real trees, not the artificial plastic ones that are so prevalent in homes.

For our house, it has to be a real tree!

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Not sure why I am so adamant every year that our tree has to be real.  It may have something to do with the wonderful scent that a fresh tree brings into the house.  It may be that I associate an evergreen with the frosty winter days on the prairies and of being bundled up in layers of winter woollens.  Perhaps just for me, a real tree each year symbolizes renewed faith and happiness in a home.

My earliest recollection of Christmas is when I was seven years old.  As you read this post, let’s see if I can take you back to an adventure of mine so many years ago.

My brother, who had a way of getting me into all sorts of interesting situations aka trouble (see earlier posts), and I got dressed in our warmest winter clothes and headed out the door in search of a tree.

It was a cold prairie afternoon.  We were dressed in knit sweaters under our parkas.  On our feet we wore dad’s grey wool socks inside our black high-top rubber boots.  This particular day, we had two pair of mittens on our hands.  Our toques were pulled down to our eyes and the scarves were pulled over our mouths all the way up to our noses.  No skin exposed except for the slits for our eyes!  Our warm breath caused a puff of steam to rise out of the scarves.  Icicles would form on the wool in just a matter of seconds!

With a small hatchet in hand, our sheet metal sleigh and our dog, Snoopy, my brother and I headed out that day to the very back of our property.  We walked on top of at least 3 feet of crispy hard packed snow.  If we were lucky we wouldn’t break through and sink up to our waists!  Snoopy of course took giant leaps and crashed through, only to emerge a few feet ahead of us.  I remember how only the top of her head could be seen bounding along through the snow banks.  She loved coming out with us on our adventures.

There was a barb-wire fence at the back of our yard and we had to be careful crawling in between the wires to get through.  The snow-covered ground went on for acres and was as flat as could be.  No one had recently walked out here and there were no animal tracks either.  Sometimes we saw rabbits and even coyotes out here.  But not today.

We continued on until we came to the “bush” as I called it.  This forested area was beside a deep ravine and it was dense with shrubs.  There were lots of young spruce trees growing in amongst the poplar and maple trees.  We looked around for a bit and found a tree that was the right size and shape for our family’s living room.  We chopped it down.  We didn’t waste any time out there because we were hot and sweaty from all that walking and we were now getting cold.  It was also starting to get dark outside.  We loaded up the tree and headed for home.

Now this is the part I really remember well.  As we were almost back to the barb-wire fence and our property, someone in the distance yelled out at us.  My brother told me to hurry because we could get shot at!  And yes, just as we scrambled back through the fence, pulling the sleigh with our prize tree, loud shots from a shot gun were heard.  Whether or not any buckshot came flying at us, we never knew.  The two of us were running as fast as we could, breaking through the snow, falling and sinking.  But we kept on moving.  Not to worry about Snoopy however as she was a smart dog and was way ahead of us as we all ran for home!

As you can guess, we had chopped down a tree from someone’s property.  He lived in an old brick house in that bush and was known around the town as a grouchy old man.  My brother had nicknamed him Bela Lugosi back then and it was only recently that I figured out why.

I remember that Christmas tree well.  It had been four years since a tree had been set up at our house.  It was the first Christmas that I recall growing up as a child.

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That Christmas, we had the tree with the old glass ornaments and coloured lights.   Straw was put under the dinner table and candles were lit to welcome our guests.  We had lots of relatives over for dinner.  We ate kutia, borscht, perogies and cabbage rolls.  Uncle Metro’s family gave us a box of chocolates. In return, Uncle got a pack of cigarettes from us.  I received one memorable gift.  It was a fuzzy brown store-bought sweater.

Why do I remember all this so clearly?  You see, when I was three years old, my eldest sister had passed away.  Thinking back, it had been so very hard on my parents.  Our home was very sad for a long  time.  We never talked about it when I was young, but I now believe that after those four years of sadness, our real tree that year helped to restore faith and happiness in our home at Christmas time.

Not sure whose idea it was to get that real tree that year.  But I’m glad we did.

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