We always used to have a live Christmas tree – dating back from the first Christmas Gizmo Guy and I were together in 1976. Christmas at my parents’ house was rarely a joyous occasion and the year I met GG, I was determined to change that. I’d just got my licence so we went out and cut down own tree, set it up and decorated it. Now that wasn’t a big thing, you see I lived in the middle of Christmas Tree Country. All my neighbours had Christmas Tree farms where you could go cut your own for $2. The ones they cut ended up being shipped by train down to places like Texas and sold for $20. (This was in the 70s, they’re a bit pricier now.)
I wrote in a previous blog (Ahoy Mateys, Christmas Meme) the story about how Gizmo Guy surprised me with a Christmas tree the first Christmas we were married. Every year since, we would bundle the boys up and drive to a local Christmas tree farm and let the kids choose one and it was always ALWAYS perfect. Even if the trunk was crooked or there was bare spot somewhere. But about 6 years ago, our dog decided the perfect place to sleep was under the tree, and invariably at some point during the night she’d stand up and knock it – and the container of water it was standing in – over. Between mopping up the sopping carpet and the fact that most of the Christmas tree farms have been encroached upon by the city and it takes a lot of driving to go ‘cut-your-own’ we decided it was time to change that tradition.
So we switched to this tree – an artificial. (By the way, the lean is the fault of the picture taker, not the tree.) I like the artificial because we can put it up a lot sooner and I’m not vacuuming up (and stepping on) pine needles for the rest of the year. Most of the ornaments are home made. I do embroidery and so many of the ornaments are ones I’ve embroidered, others are plaster ornaments the boys have painted. Hopefully they’ll be around for a long long time and will be treasured on the boys’ trees in years to come. I try to add a new one every year.
I also start my baking about a week before Christmas. I used to start a lot sooner, beginning with a gingerbread house every year. That also started the first year I met Gizmo Guy – I made two and gave one to Gizmo Guy’s sister. I’d put it on a foil-covered board and she put it on her side board and stuck important papers – tickets, papers etc. under it for the month. Then while they were visiting the grandparents on Christmas Day a fire started in her house. While the gingerbread house itself didn’t survive, all the papers – including her insurance and several other really important papers survived because of that foil covered board.
I continued that tradition up until about 7 years ago when the boys decided they’d rather just have the candy and forego the house. That was all right with me – making a gingerbread house from scratch takes a LOT of planning and work. In addition to the gingerbread, I make chocolate macaroons, peanut butter cookies, Cherry Jewel bars, peanut brittle, chocolate fudge, shortbread, peanut butter logs, marshmallow logs, coconut ice … I know I’m forgetting something. So you can see why I spend a week in the kitchen. And why none of the Braemel family moves for about a week afterward.
You’ll notice there is already a present under this year’s tree – that’s one of Guitar Hero’s prezzies. In the past, we’d only have a few presents under the tree before Christmas, usually one for each of us to open on Christmas Eve. Then, after the boys left hay and carrots outside for the reindeer and finally fell asleep asleep, Gizmo Guy and I would sneak the rest of the presents past the boys’ bedrooms and arrange them so when they awoke there’d be a mountain of presents under the tree, along with a handwritten letter from Santa beside the finished glass of milk and cookies. And sure enough there would always be reindeer tracks in the snow beside the hay.
So what traditions do you have?