Traditions, old and new, make the season special

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Julie Geiss Christmas tree
The memories created when selecting and decorating the Christmas tree may be the best gift of all. (Julie Geiss photo)

It’s that time of year again — time to get our Christmas tree. It’s one of my favorite traditions, but first, we have a few decisions to make. 

Should our kids get to choose the Christmas tree farm with horse-drawn wagons? My husband said he has 25 reasons to choose another tree farm. I remind him again that we know we are paying for the experience and not just the tree itself. Our purchase also supports a local farm. 

Type of tree

Now that we’ve agreed on the Christmas tree farm, we have to decide which type of tree. I am pretty vocal about this decision. It has to be a tree with soft needles. I don’t want my hands pricked while I add ribbons and ornaments. I like my Christmas trees to be tall and skinny. If there is a bald spot, I can cover it with an angel or an ornament. 

I prefer fir trees like the Douglas fir or a Balsam fir. Both varieties have the coveted soft needles and a pleasant aroma too. Their scent is not just noticeable right after they’re cut. These trees remain aromatic for several weeks. Many seasonal candles attempt to capture the smell of fir trees. 

Fraser fir trees are another option. They are quite sturdy and maintain their shape well. Blue spruce trees are so beautiful with their soft hues of blue-ish green. However, their color is the only thing that is soft. The needles are quite sharp and make decorating tricky. 

A Norway spruce with upward-sloping branches can competently support heavy ornaments. Year after year, a Norway spruce has been chosen as the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. 

A very traditional choice is a white pine tree. Their needles don’t seem to drop as quickly as other varieties. The largest pine trees in the country are white pines. Brighter-hued scotch pine trees hold onto their needles for weeks at a time as well. 

Similar to years past, there will be much debate in the field. It will be brother against brother, sister racing sister to find the perfect tree. In the end, everyone will take a turn sawing at the base before we yell, “Timber!” 

New traditions

Yearly traditions make holidays special, but it’s nice to throw in something new too. This year, after choosing a tree, we are making dried orange and cranberry garland. 

For decades, oranges were a prized treat found in the bottom of the stocking. Especially during lean financial years like the Great Depression when presents were scarce, fruit and nuts filled the toe of children’s stockings. Before modern transportation, oranges from Florida or California were a rare treat in the midwest. 

The tradition of oranges in stockings is loosely tied to the tale of the Bishop of Myra, the real Saint Nicholas. The legend is that St. Nicholas tossed three gold balls into the home of three impoverished young maidens. 

Their families could not afford wedding dowries, and they would be forced into slavery. The spherical gold landed in their stockings hung by the fire to dry. The maiden’s future hope of marriage was restored. 

Cranberries date back prior to the first Thanksgiving shared by Pilgrims and Native Americans. They were included in many meals eaten by Native Americans. The berries were also used to treat indigestion and help wounds to heal. 

Now, cranberries are used commercially to make cranberry juice. The bitter aftertaste of cranberries is subdued by blending them with other berries or apple juice. The deep red color of mature berries is perfect for Christmas decorations. 

Blending old and new traditions at Christmas time creates memories and brings families together. During the bleak winter months, I enjoy bringing nature inside my home. The warm colors and natural aromas can’t be beaten by any commercially made product. 

No matter what tree we finally choose, we are blessed to be together as a family and by the true meaning of Christmas.

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Julie Geiss lives with her husband and four children in Unity Township, Ohio. Faith and family are first in her life, but she also loves hiking, biking and camping. You can contact Julie at juliegeiss1414@gmail.com.

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