It was a very stormy Christmas Eve back in 1970 and Dad had finished work at six o’clock. I was eight years old; going on nine; my sister would have just turned seven. Back in those days, the family always met at my grandparents’ house on the other side of the province. It was normally a two-and-a-half-hour trip. Because Dad had had to work right up until the very last minute, Mom had everything ready to go. As soon as he arrived home from work, Dad gobbled up a sandwich as Mom hurried me and my sister into the back seat, already dressed in our jammies.
For a few years now, I have questioned the wisdom of purchasing a live Christmas tree. On a moral and spiritual level, I always feel guilt: I believe trees are as alive as I am. Why would I be okay with killing a tree for a tradition? In a time where our planet needs trees more than ever? Well, buying an artificial tree that is not biodegradable and that will absolutely end up in a landfill eventually is just not an option for me, either. And I am blessed to live in a country where live Christmas trees are plentiful. Unlike our parents and grandparents, we don’t go into the forest anymore to cut down a tree that – in time – would have become a giant. Instead, the cultivation of trees for just this occasion has become a tidy part of local business (and I always try to support local business). These trees are specifically grown for exactly this purpose – fields and fields of them, just kilometers from our home.
I don’t know quite when she started it, but many, many decades ago my grandmother, who was a beautiful and accomplished seamstress – if only to keep her own family frugally but very well clothed because money was tight – made Christmas stockings for the entire family. Every stocking is made of red felt with white-felt trim and each one bears the family member’s name as well as a number of lovely felt decorations, each slightly different and unique to its owner. My parents, my sister, my aunts, my uncles and every one of my cousins had their own stockings. Back in the 70s, when we all got together at my grandparents’ home for the holidays, our stockings used to cover every inch of my grandparents’ stairway banister. My own stocking is now dix decades old and although it is starting to look a little weathered, every single stitch remains intact.
Okay, so confession time here: I love watching Christmas holiday movies. Not the blockbusters with the famous names, expensive directors and ample funding (although I like those too), but rather: the ‘B’ movies; the really cheesy ones. You know what I’m talking about: there is a whole channel dedicated to them and if you are a true fan, they start sometime around the beginning of November.
The movies are always set in a fictive, picturesque little village that must be frozen perpetually in time, else, why would they name their town ‘Christmas Tree Hollow’ or ‘Silent Night Village’? The heroines have names like ‘Holly’ and ‘Noelle’ and the handsome fellows they have their eye on, are all named ‘Nick’ or ‘Chris’. Every single house; every single street; every single store; indeed, every single vehicle, is artfully decorated with vintage Christmas decorations that all have a story to tell. Many of these decorations also carry magical powers. Everyone in the village knows and dearly loves one another. The characters live on streets with names such as ‘Mistletoe Lane’ or ‘Evergreen Way’. The entire town always works cohesively to plan the yearly ‘Yuletide Ball’ or the ‘Christmas Carol Extravaganza’.