Decking the halls and trimming the tree

Laurie Snider
Notes from the Nest

The keepsake ornament memorializing our first Christmas together, is of twigs, entwined with holly and ivy, twisted into a heart shape. Hanging in the centre are a pair of chipmunks, dressed in their best woolly, Christmas sweaters and mittens, sharing a ride on a swing. Their heads nuzzled together and big, toothy grins suggest they’re very much in love. The sentiment on the attached heart sign announces, “1989, Our First Christmas together.”

This will be the 29th year now that Randy and I have secured this nostalgic, little reminder of our matrimonial bliss to our tree. In hindsight, had Randy paid closer attention, he may have deduced, there was some foreshadowing at hand — that life with me, was to be full of an abundance of birds, squirrels, chippies, cats and dogs, almost predetermining a future, that was going to be more than a little nutty!

At the beginning of the 19th Century, in Canada, Christmas was hardly celebrated. A mere hundred years later, it had become the biggest, annual celebration, with many customs and traditions, continuing to this day. Many Canadians are intimately familiar, with decorating their homes with wreaths, ribbons, bows and lights. An evergreen tree, real or artificial, is adorned with various baubles and strings of lights, many attend religious ceremonies, a festive meal is shared with loved ones and gifts are exchanged.

The practice of garnishing our homes with evergreens, during winter solstice, dates back to ancient Egyptians, Romans, Druids and even Vikings. The various festivals, feasts, or celebrations, were in honour of Sun gods, who were thought to get a bit under the weather, at this time of year, fading out. The solstice was a turning point, reminding them all was well and things would grow and get green again.

Germans are frequently credited with beginning the custom of bedecking their homes, with trees but the first decorated Christmas tree was in Riga, Latvia, in 1510. Germany did begin the tradition of decorating Christmas trees during the 16th Century as devout Christians, brought them into their homes.

Protestant, reformer Martin Luther has been credited as the first to light trees, with candles. On his way home, one wintery night, while composing his sermon, he was apparently bedazzled by the sight of the stars twinkling, amongst the evergreens, inspiring him to recapture the scene, at home, on his family’s tree.

Usually candles were lit for no longer than 30 minutes, were continuously supervised and buckets of water, and sand were kept nearby, to douse any rogue flames. Unsurprisingly, there were still many fires, prompting insurance companies to eventually deny claims, for a “knowing risk.” In 1885, a Chicago hospital burned to the ground, after decorating a tree, with lighted candles. Geez!

Thomas Edison’s assistant, Edward Johnson, in 1882, was the first to create a string of lights, that he used to illuminate the tree, in his New York apartment. By 1890, Edison was offering lighting services for Christmas but at 300 smackers a pop, they were only for the wealthy. By 1903, commercially available sets of lights, called festoons, became available. They’d still set you back a bit, with no Canadian Tire or discount store on the corner, a string of 24 bulbs cost $12.

Each year 3-6 million trees, are harvested in Canada, the majority being grown in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Half of these are exported. Each acre of growing trees, produces enough oxygen daily, for 18 people. Additionally, the trees provide habitat for wildlife, and can be composted, at the end of the season.

The same year Randy and I procured our cheery, whimsical, rodent ornament as a nod to our wedding, we set off in search of the perfect tree, to place it on. With love as our guide, we earnestly, traipsed off into the woods, in search of a fitting specimen, until we had our Griswold Christmas moment.

Randy, eager to please his new bride, dutifully lugged our natural beauty, up the stairs to our cozy, apartment, which is when we had our second Christmas Vacation moment.

It seems we highly over-estimated the size of our living quarters when Randy was enthusiastically chopping, back in the forest.

Admittedly, it was rather hilarious. Once released from the confines of the ropes, the branches burst forth, in all their glory, occupying our entire living room. This necessitated speaking through tree limbs while conversing, on opposite sides of our tiny room, over the remainder of the holidays.

After nearly 30 years of Christmases together, if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that this wondrous season, is about family, friends, love, laughter and making memories, sometimes even sad ones. And as for life being ‘more than a little nutty,’ absolutely, but we wouldn’t have it any other way!

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