Our living room isn’t that big, and we really live in it. The few years we did an actual tree, we sort of enjoyed it, but also felt like it was a lot of work (and money, for the live trees we like), particularly since we always are away from home on Christmas.
My family has kind of a funny history with Christmas trees. When I was a kid, my notoriously
cheap thrifty frugal grandfather would go out and get the tree on Christmas Eve, when they are practically giving them away. My brother and I would wake up on Christmas morning to find that a tree had magically appeared–fully decorated and piled with presents.
There’s also a story about my dad going out to cut a tree on his land and, being unable to find a sufficiently full one, he cut two, drilled holes in one, and filled it out with the branches of another. All was well until a guest at the Christmas party pointed out that the tree appeared to be two different species. Oops.
In later years, my dad sometimes chose to just cut a bit branch off of a deciduous tree and decorate it with twinkle lights and small ornaments. He called it “the yule log.” My mom went entirely the other way, getting a twenty-foot tree to go in the living room. Every year, it was an ordeal to get it in the house, and there were lots of jokes about it being a Griswold Christmas tree. In memory of my grandfather, we decorated it on Christmas Eve, usually with some family friends, and it was gorgeous.
In my husband’s family, they used an artificial tree. Each year, each of their four children added an ornament to the tree. The parents often did, too. When we in-law-children became part of the family, we started adding ornaments, too. Every year, my mother-in-law said, “I think we are going to need to buy a bigger tree next year…”
So we have lots of meaningful traditions about trees in the families where we grew up, but we felt like we were doing our tree “just because.” Because we were supposed to. Because our parents did. Because Carlos liked going to the cut-your-own and picking out a tree (the first time, when he was seven, he asked if it would be pre-lit). Last year, with a toddler running around, as well as some construction going on in the living room area until quite close to the actual holiday, we decided not to bother with it. Instead, we decorated a Christmas-tree-shaped juniper. We made birdseed ornaments with Carlos and strung popcorn (he got bored with the popcorn really fast). AND I DIDN’T TAKE ANY PICTURES!
So, here are links to other people’s tutorials on the stuff we did last year, and which we’re planning to do again. Our Christmas present…to the birds.
We strung popcorn and cranberries, but the birds didn’t touch the cranberries. They were pretty, but messy the next spring when toddler Silas found them. This year, we are just doing popcorn.
We made birdseed ornaments using gelatin and cookie cutters. I tried do more complex shapes, but they fell apart. I think hearts and stars are the best.
The pinecone/peanut butter/birdseed thing was the most successful with Carlos. He didn’t have the patience for stringing popcorn. He also didn’t have much patience for waiting while the gelatin set for the cookie cutter ornaments.