An informative guide to selecting the proper Christmas tree.
|Phase One: Selecting the Tree
About two weeks prior to Christmas, find a day when it is so incredibly cold outside that you didn't even know it could get that far below zero. This will be the day you bitchingly and aimlessly wander through tree lots looking for a shrub to make your holiday complete.
Please note that no one in the history of the world has ever known how to pick a proper tree.
Be aware that the fir tree salesperson may resort to using tactics as though he is trying to sell you a car. Therefore, it helps to act as though you are the foremost tree expert in all of the world. Study the trees, shake them, give them a whirl around the tree lot as if you are Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing. Upon seeing this, the tree salesperson will think twice before muttering through chattering teeth: "What's it gonna take to get this tree on top of your car today?"
He knows you need a tree and he has the trees. Approach him accordingly. He will say anything to get you to buy one.
If you find a tree you think will work for you, play mind games with the salesperson. Ask questions like, "How old is this tree?" "Does it have any contagious diseases?" "Did it go to a good school?" "Does it come from a good family?" Look directly at the tree and ask,"What's a nice tree like you doing in a place like this?" Make the frostbitten salesperson work for their money.
Please, please, please be aware that tree sellers lie. Oh yes, they LIE! They lie their faces off. Every single time you ask them when the trees have been cut, they always say. "This morning." That's a lie. They lie because they want you to buy their crappy, falling apart trees that were cut eight days ago so they just say they were cut this morning.
In case you have not heard of it, I am going to now expose a deep, dark secret of the forestry world. It is called The Tree Law. This may be the most important information you read here. In this law, it is written that any tree you take home will triple in size the minute you take it through your front door. I have theorized the trees suck in their gut and shrink down a little in the cold frozen tundra of the tree lot just to trick you into buying them. Then, once unleashed in the safety of your living room, they explode like the launching of the space shuttle, knocking out all the windows.
Your tree may also take on a whole new appearance once it is home. For example, bare spots may appear where just an hour ago needles were sprouting in large amounts, etc. This is guaranteed to happen. They also puff out their branches in other areas of their stump, much like women who buy cars and electronics and wear low cut, form fitting shirts so they can get a good deal. The fir trees are extremely hopeful that you will buy them, take them home and get them in out of the cold. It’s kind of like picking up someone during last call in a dark bar. Seems like a good idea at the time but things will look totally different when dawn comes.
The Tree Law (which states, if you had been paying attention, that the size and condition of the tree will change once taken off the lot) has been proven every Christmas of my life, as well as documented by self-proclaimed experts such as Clark Griswold in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation movie.
Never make the common mistake of assuming once the tree is home on your property that you are home free. Nu-uh. The oh-so-simple and joyous tree-getting has only just begun. At this point, I suggest you leave the tree in your yard or on the porch and retreat to the warmth of your house for a while to try to get your frozen blood circulating again before you wrestle the giant Douglas Fir in through your door. Get a hot drink. Maybe read "War and Peace". Relax a bit in preparation for phase two. You are going to need it.
Phase Two: Installation of the Tree
Upon returning to your tree, you may squint and frown at it, unsure if this was the gloriously-needled beast you selected earlier that would make Martha Stewart envious. Anyway, squint and frown at it for a bit as the Arctic air whips through your seven layers of clothes, while simultaneously contemplating switching religions.
Begrudgingly proceed to the tool shed after you realize you forgot the hatchet, saw, axe, machete, or whatever tool your neighbor hasn’t claimed. After much searching, find something with a blade that will cut off a bit of the tree stump. This is an important step. Your tree will not be able to drink much water if you do not make a fresh cut.
Around midnight, take another break, then come back and resume chipping away at the tree, which by now has had half of it’s needles shaken to the ground from the constant chopping and trauma. When a new section of the tree butt is finally exposed, drill, poke, chip, or otherwise create a small hole in the bottom of the stump. This acts as a straw for the tree so it can slurp up the water.
Phase Three: The Stand (and not the good Stephen King kind, either)
To ensure proper tree holding ability, you would be wise to purchase the monster truck of all Christmas tree stands. The cast iron type works well. Sure, it weighs about seventy-five pounds, but it is well worth the angst and frustration so that the much-beloved tree does not topple over onto family members during the holidays.
The smaller stands that appear to be made out of material very similar to birch bark can barely support a Charlie Brown-type tree. One of these would surely never be able to hold up the King Kong fir you brought home.
Now that the tree has been prepared to assume the upright position in the stand, gather together about twelve of your college football buddies to assist you in lifting it into place and situating it in your living room. Do not attempt this alone unless you want to spend Christmas in traction. Tighten the hardware around the tree stump, but be careful not to tighten anything totally, as I can absolutely guarantee you that you will be readjusting and repositioning and twisting and turning the tree for about two hours until you have it just right.
Phase Four: Choosing Sides (and not the good "hockey team" kind, either)
Send the football buddies home. You don’t need their twelve differing opinions about which side of the tree should be facing out. For this, you want your spouse. The rest of this section is self-explanatory. You will turn the tree by micro-millimeters in all directions for the next hour, until your spouse (as lovely as she/ he is, I am sure) tells you to, "Stop! That’s it right there." But it will always turn out that it is not "it" right there because when she/ he checks it from every possible angle searching for absolute perfection, she/ he will see one needle that seems wrong and you have to start the turning process all over again.
Pour yourself a nice triple strong hot toddy at this point. Gulp it down. The tree will look incredibly better. Encourage your indecisive spouse to drink.
Phase Five: Watering
Your tree has been through extreme trauma by this time so the least you can do is give it a drink, too ( and not the good hot toddy kind, either). I am sure your great grandpa always put Aspirin or sugar or smelling salts or gasoline or Alka seltzer in the Christmas tree water, but trust me when I say all you need is plain old water from the tap. Let’s remember this tree is dead. It will continue to drink some water to prevent too much drying out, and therefore dropping it’s needles to some degree, but Aspirin or other additives won’t do anything for it. When is the last time you saw a tree in the woods holding a bottle of Advil? Besides, you will need all the medicine in the house for yourself once this ordeal is over.
Phase Six: The Light Laws
Did you know that when you take down your tree after the holidays and store all your decorations in the attic, the lights get together in their boxes and tangle together into one big knot? Unless you have been in a coma all your life, of course you know that. This phenomenon is known as The First Light Law.
No matter how carefully or painstakingly gently you stored the lights last year, I can guarantee you without a doubt that your lights are at this very moment in one giant knotted ball in your attic. It has been suggested that they crawl over and around each other to try to escape during the next eleven months, thus creating the intense tangling and knottiness, but this has never actually been proven. No one has ever seen it happening. However, you can’t see the wind, either but you know it’s there.
I have personally surmised that certain strings of these lights actually do manage to escape. I don’t know about you, but it has been a very common occurrence in my household to open the box of Christmas lights and exclaim, "Now where are all the lights I had last year?! I know I had more than this."
Aha. Escape from Alcatraz.
The Second Light Law states that upon lighting the Christmas tree, there shall always be numerous, if not entire strings of lights that won’t come on, or they come on but when touched or moved or breathed upon, go out. There is also a clause (and not the good Santa kind, either) in the Second Light Law that mentions the possibility of partial sets of lights not working, that is, half the set lights up, the other half doesn’t.
I recognize it is extremely frustrating, however, it is always entirely the lights’ own fault. If they hadn’t been clamouring all over each other during the summer months trying to flee your attic, they wouldn’t have messed up their wires and electric currents inside themselves and would now be working. Therefore, feel free to vent your anger on the lights themselves.
Phase Seven: Admire and Be Thankful
Ahhhhhhh… the much sought after final phase. Stand back and admire your tree after the last decoration is hung and your whiskey bottle is empty. Looks pretty good, doesn’t it? (At least until the whiskey wears off, the effect of which we discussed earlier, which was relative to picking up people in a dark bar).
Think about your shining (hopefully) tree and how it spent it’s life growing outside in all kinds of weather, through wind and rain and lightning and frost and snow and unbearable cold so that one day a guy with a dull chainside could come along and slice right through it and roughly cart it off to God-knows-where. Yes, admire your tree and congratulate yourself on a job well done.
It is usually about this time that you turn your back and leave the room, at which time one of three things can happen. One: all the lights go out simultaneously. Two: the cat climbs up the stump, knocking all the decorations off and gets it’s head wedged in the bottom of the angel. Three: It topples over, knocking all the lights out, breaking the decorations and squishes the cat.
Have another drink and revert to phase two. If none of the above occurs, be thankful and have yourself a merry little Christmas.