14 December 2011

O Tannenbaum

Like so many others – maybe like you! – one of my favorite parts of Christmas is enjoying our Christmas tree. Seriously, what’s better than curling up next to a Christmas tree to break the coldness and darkness of winter? Personally, I attribute my fondness to the fact that my mother could create a gorgeous Christmas tree, with hundreds, even thousands of lights, and all the ornaments twinkly and sparkly. I adore my mom’s Christmas trees. And growing up, the best part was... I didn’t even have to help.

That’s right. While some people make the tree a family affair, my mom did our tree herself because... well, that’s the way we enjoyed it most. She knew what she was doing, my dad and I mostly got in the way, and the result was beautiful. So when it came time to put it up myself, I discovered: holy moly a pretty tree is hard work. Seriously. Ask my friend who helped me put it up the first time without my mom, who still reminds me nearly every year (ten years later!) not to daisy chain ALL those thousands of lights together.

Turns out they all quit working! Who knew! Not us.

So. A pretty tree is hard work anyway, and even harder when I’ve adopted my mother’s insistence of doing it myself so I can freely obsess over the perfect draping of beads. Which means that actually putting the tree up is not usually my favorite part.

But oh.... it’s worth it in the end. It really is.

I start with this nifty contraption my mother constructed. It’s an old tabletop-esque piece of wood with carpet “sliders” on the bottom.

The idea is that you can decorate your tree freely away from the wall, then easily slide it into place! See, my mom is a Christmas tree pro.

Next is the wrought-iron tree stand. Currently I’m rocking a seven-foot slimline tree, but this stand is ready for it if we decide to upgrade.

Once I get the tree in the stand, then it’s time for my absolute favorite part: LIGHTS! I love them. I cannot get enough of them. If the tree doesn’t light the whole room and make you squint when looking at it directly, if it doesn’t raise the temperature of the room and our electric bill? NEEDS MORE LIGHTS.

The seven-foot slimline we have now is pre-lit with a measly 500 lights. NOT ENOUGH, so I have to add more. My personal record is 1700 on that seven-foot slimline (2400 on a fuller eight-foot tree), though nowadays I think there may be fewer. I’m not quite sure how many are on there now because honestly? I’ve just left them on there the past few years. This year, one of the strands was out, so Mr. P had to help me dig in and find the culprit:

See how the top part is all dim and sad while the bottom has SO MANY PRETTY LIGHTS? Yes, we fixed it so that it all looked like the bottom. YAY LIGHTS!

After lights come the ribbon and the strands of pearls and gold beads (blurry image courtesy of my inability to properly focus with my swanky new lens):

Then a layer of glittery gold balls and snowflakes:

The ribbon, beads, and glittery gold balls go on the tree every year, but I like to switch up the rest of the ornaments. Last year, for our first Christmas being married, I used all ivory and pearl ornaments to make a “wedding tree” in our wedding colors (and even used a table runner from our reception as a tree skirt). You can kind of see them in the Christmastravaganza image above, even. This year, though, I added a pop of color:

And after those? Some of my favorite ornaments. Which brings me to a very important point.

Lately I’ve seen some chastising of “department store Christmas trees” in peoples’ homes – as in, a tree that belongs in a store’s Christmas display doesn’t belong in a home. Rather, a family Christmas tree should have colored lights and tongue depressor snowflakes or else it is cold and impersonal.

And I am here to argue against that. Because all those gorgeous ornaments that my mother used to decorate our tree when I was growing up? Well... these are the same ornaments. They’re not cutesy Hallmark ornaments of beloved childhood characters or baubles we acquired on vacations. If that’s your thing, that’s great! However, personally? I’m more sentimental about these on my “department store tree”...

From top left: a red bird in my Christmas stocking from Santa a few years ago; a P in my Christmas stocking last year for the first Mr. and Mrs. P Christmas; a musical angel that my mom chose when I was child to celebrate our musical family; a faux crystal ballerina my mom chose when I took ballet classes as a kid; a hand-painted glass bauble I received as a Christmas present from one of my piano students; and one of several beaded snowflakes my mom crafted. Even those glittery gold balls I mentioned above – my dad and I used those to decorate my mini-float in a little Christmas parade one year when I was a kid. And they helped me win!

So yeah. Who says a sentimental tree can’t be a pretty tree?

For this year’s red-themed tree, I arranged a red tablecloth as a tree skirt:

And the pièce de résistance is a new addition this year. See, for a few years I’ve complained about the gold wire star on top of the tree, pictured above. I’ve really wanted a bright and shining star, like we sing about in the Christmas carols. And this year, Mr. P thoughtfully provided one as a St. Nick present:

So now I get to write blog posts in the gentle glow of our pretty and sentimental tree. It’s not perfect – there are still, somehow, more lights on the bottom than top, and I occasionally re-drape the beads or rearrange the red ornaments so they are, to my eye, more evenly distributed – but oh, it makes me happy. The other afternoon I had on my cranky pants and said so to Mr. P. He promptly plugged in the lights on the tree and said “How about now?”

Hope your days are merry and BRIGHT!


Tina said...

Beautiful - the moravian star lends even more elegance, too! I want one... ;-)

Mary Beth said...

Your tree is beautiful, Sarah. And Miss Tina - I remember your tree in the living room next to the piano. It was also SO perfect and pretty! Merry Christmas!

Shanna said...

Gorgeous tree! I would not have thought once about calling it a department store tree - yours looks better than those! And yay for Mr. P for saving the day with lights :)