One of my earliest memories is trekking through the snowy and quiet backwoods, following the footprints of my two older sisters and our dad, in search of that year’s “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree.
We’d find one, walk all around it to make sure it wasn’t too lopsided, then Dad would cut it down and drag it back to our car at the road. We’d come home to Mom waiting with hot cocoa and open boxes of Christmas decorations.
When Josh and I went off on our own in the world, the annual Christmas tree pilgrimage carried on. Although now it was to Christmas tree lots or symmetrical Christmas tree farms.
There was beauty and fun, but it felt a bit cliché, packaged. We’d use fancy carriers to bring our tree from the lot, stand shivering in line waiting for netting machines that would smoosh all the branches in, ready to load on top of the car. We’d grumble as evergreen needles scattered through the house on the tree’s trip inside, grumble more as we wrestled with the tree stand screws, until finally the perfectly proportioned tree was in place.
The decorating was just as fun, but somehow that tree finding process didn’t have quite the same magic I remembered from growing up. I didn’t know what the difference was, or how to get back to that feeling of those tree adventures growing up. Unexpectedly, yurt living provided the answer…
This year there wasn’t even an option of a full tree. In fact, we didn’t intend to have one at all. Surely that wouldn’t qualify as a true necessity. But the children kept finding trees outside that they’d call our Christmas tree, and finally I realized we could indeed find a spot inside for one of these small trees. On an unseasonably warm and misting December day I spontaneously grabbed a pot and a shovel, and the children excitedly followed me out in search of our tree. This wasn’t perfectly packaged holiday tradition. This was adventure.
When we found a tree that would fit our pot, we took turns digging up a good root ball for it (in hopes of planting it back there in the spring) and tucked it into the pot with some of the nearby soil. Then we gathered bits of all kinds of moss and cones and bark to pat in on top of the dirt. Caden decided this meant that the tree wasn’t even going to realize it wasn’t outside anymore.
We paraded our tree back to the yurt singing “O Christmas Tree” and smiling over our find.
As much as we joked about our “Charlie Brown” trees growing up, I believe this is the first year I’ve had one that could well and truly be a replica. This tree had personality, and dare I say it seemed happy tucked in with us here.
The children quickly turned it into a play spot (dual-purpose being a good yurt characteristic) and now toy animals and peg people peek out from the moss and branches.
At some point we’ll decorate it by making little felt ornaments that won’t be too much weight for these little branches. But for now we’re all enjoying it just as it is, a true bit of nature brought inside for these colder, darker days. Magic. I believe we now have a new version of our old holiday tradition.
Interesting how these little moments can take you back and make you feel closer to family, even when living farther away.
When we visited my parents at Thanksgiving, I didn’t follow my dad into the woods to find a tree, but I did help him pile up hemlock branches as he worked to make us a holiday wreath to take home. We talked while his beloved birds swooped back and forth beside us to the feeders he devotedly fills for them. He showed me how to select the clusters of sprigs, how to attach them to the metal ring, alternating front to back, over and over until the circle was closed, just as he’d watched his mother growing up. These were not the kinds of moments that we had many of when we lived closer and had hurried, short visits.
Our tiny tree, our wreath. Not much, but such happiness and connection in each that this is just right.