Can you remember your first Christmas tree? Was it real or artificial? My first was really artificial. As kids back in the country of my birth; Trinidad, my sisters and I would explore the nearby pastures to find a broken limb from a tree. We would paint whatever we foraged green, sometimes white, add tinsel for flitter, cotton for snow, some homemade decorations, and “hallah”; we had our Christmas tree. When the celebration was over, the dried-up tree was put out to the pasture from where it came. And so began my Christmas tree tradition, which continues slightly different to this day.
Christmas tree traditions began long before the advent of Christianity. Trees that remained green all year round had a special meaning for people in winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, it was customary to hang evergreen boughs over their doors and windows in ancient times. People believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illnesses.
In my early teenage years, one of my neighbors, nicknamed Dad-dad; a recluse, who I thought was as old as dirt and quite scary before I got to know him, taught me how to make my first real fake Christmas tree. He took me to a nearby hardware store, where we bought rope, green die, wire, and a mop-stick. With a hand drill and a vice, we made our branches every evening over a three month period. We made over fifty branches for every wrung of that tree. Dad-dad went from Scrooge to my Santa. We had the best Christmas tree on the block. After that Christmas, our tree was carefully placed in a box. It was displayed the following year and for many more Christmases that followed.
That homemade Christmas tree lasted many years until we got a real artificial tree from the USA, which was metallic. It shone and glittered both night and day. It was the most beautiful and the most expensive Christmas tree in the neighborhood. Lights added more glitter to the tree. However, it harbored a shocking secret. You may recall the tree was metallic, right? While the lights looked beautiful. A caution sign – don’t touch on the tree – had to be hung on it, not for decorations, but a good reason – the tree had a short. For fun, we would dare each other and friends to touch the tree to get a tingle, which we called – the shocking feeling of Christmas.
When I moved to America, I began a new tradition – going to the Christmas tree farm. Have you ever visited a Christmas–tree–farm where Christmas trees are raised like chickens. My first visit with my kids took me back to the pastures of my childhood days. These we not dead or broken trees; they were all very much alive. We selected our tree from the lot, which we loaded onto the roof of our car. It was a joy to see the kids start their Christmas tree tradition, and life come full circle. Today, my Christmas tree tradition is much simpler. Now I hang an ornament on my kids’ trees to celebrate each year and the memories of all my real and artificial little Christmas trees.