A Late Start on Christmas Spirit


December 25, 2014 by Jean

home-grown Christmas treeChristmas almost didn’t happen for me this year. Between the hassles of living with the seemingly endless construction at my house and the stresses of my friend’s illness, I had trouble finding time, energy or  spirit for the holidays. A week before Christmas, I had done nothing about the holiday except the gift calendars that I create for family and friends each year.

Last Saturday, I finally got myself in gear. I went to a local garden gift shop to find some special gifts and stopped on my way home at the apple orchard near my house where I normally buy my Christmas tree. But I was so late that the trees had already sold out and I went home empty handed. At this point, I was going through the motions but still wasn’t feeling the holiday spirit. And when a quick internet search showed that other Christmas tree vendors nearby were also sold out, I considered just forgetting about the whole thing for this year. But then my stubbornness kicked in; I was not going to let my contractor be the Grinch Who Stole Christmas! I would go out into the woods behind my house and find a suitable candidate for the role of Christmas tree.

I should explain that I’ve never been one of those people who has to have the perfect Christmas tree. For me, the tree is mostly a backdrop for much-loved ornaments. Still, using a tree from the woods surrounding my house presents some challenges. The best Christmas trees in Maine are fir trees, especially the wonderfully fragrant balsam firs, but those don’t grow in my woods. What I have are white pines and eastern hemlocks. These self-sow readily, and I always have saplings that have sown themselves in inconvenient places, so finding one of the right size to cut down isn’t a problem. But these trees are fast-growing, which means the ones that are the right height for the house are youngsters with very small diameter trunks and wispy branches. The other problem is that, unlike trees that grow out in the sun on Christmas tree farms, trees that grow in the woods don’t grow symmetrically; instead, they have long luxurious branches reaching out toward the sun and much less growth on the shady side.

I spent about 30 minutes walking around the woods looking for the right tree to cut for the house. The one I chose, an eastern hemlock, was definitely a Charlie  Brown Christmas tree, with one flat side (which could go against the wall), sparse growth at the top, lots of space between branches (more space for hanging ornaments 🙂 ), and some branches too slender to support the weight of most ornaments. Since the trunk of the tree was only about 2” in diameter, I had to wrap wood shims around it with duct tape in order to make it thick enough to stand up in my Christmas tree stand. But committing myself to this unprepossessing tree was just what I needed to jump-start my Christmas spirit.

The next day, on the way to visit my sick friend, I spent an hour or so shopping for gifts at two of my favorite stores (Longfellow Books and Stonewall Kitchen) in the Portland, Maine Old Port. On Christmas Eve, after doing some advance cooking and baking for Christmas dinner, I curled up with a mug of tea to watch the 1951 film of Dickens’ Christmas Carol (the one with Alistair Sim as Scrooge). Today, I fixed and enjoyed Christmas dinner with a farm-fresh local turkey and all the yummy side dishes. During the next week or so, I’ll have several holiday gatherings with family and friends.

I may have been late getting my Christmas spirit moving this year, but it arrived just in time for me to enjoy a happy holiday.

8 thoughts on “A Late Start on Christmas Spirit

  1. Jean we sound like we had a similar Christmas….with my mom in the hospital and trying to sell her house we decided to stay home and not venture to relatives…she is 3000 miles away and I needed time to speak daily with my sister who is in the midst of it all with my mom. So I had very little spirit as well. But we had a quiet holiday making a wonderful dinner, listening to Christmas music all day and relaxing. I love your tree…it is perfect really. Wishing you wonderful days during this holiday season….Merry Christmas.

    • Jean says:

      Donna, I luxuriated in the relaxation of this quiet, solitary Christmas. I really needed the down time. This past week, I had friends over for annual holiday gathering. Now I’m feeling rejuvenated for the New Year and ready to move into my new retiree life.

  2. Jean R. says:

    Now I know why I don’t like Chicken McNugget. I prefer the dark meat on chickens and turkeys. Interesting video, though.

    What a cool experience finding and cutting your own tree. Sometimes it’s the impromptu things we do for the holidays that turns out to be the most memorable. And you couldn’t ask for a fresher tree than what you’ve got or better limbs to hang stuff on. I’ve only gone out to the woods to find a tree once or twice in my life, with my dad when I was very young. Mostly, he’d just take my brother and me to the tree lots.

    • Jean says:

      Jean, I’m trying to figure out what video you were watching about Chicken McNuggets — maybe an ad at the bottom of my post? (I don’t see the ads. This reminder will motivate me to pay the annual fee for WordPress’s ad-free option so that I can control what viewer’s see on my blog.) I’m a dark meat lover, too. One of the special treats for me of buying a heritage breed turkey from a local farmer (besides the amazing flavor!) is that these birds live outdoors in pastures. They have less breast meat than commercial turkeys (which have been bred to have such large breasts that they are too top-heavy to stand up), and they have huge, meaty legs and wings. Yum!!

  3. Love your tree. I went out into our woods and cut branches and berries for decorations. You got to do a little winter gardening. 🙂 Here’s hoping your contractors find their way home or you can start charging them rent in 2015.

    • Jean says:

      Judy, One year I went on a Christmas season house tour of nearby Paris Hills, Maine, and everyone had their houses decorated with sprays of white pine and winterberry. It was lovely. Alas, though I am rich in white pine, my soil is too dry and sandy to support winterberry. I would love to be able to decorate with them in winter.
      My contractor must have heard your suggestion about charging them rent; the job is suddenly moving toward completion and I moved into my new bedroom yesterday. 🙂

  4. Diana Studer says:

    this year our decorations are the straw stars at the window for passersby, and the Advent wreath for us. Next year will be different.
    I wish you a happy New Year and may your plans begin to come together as you wish.

    • Jean says:

      Diana, I am also looking forward to a saner holiday season next year with time and space for decorating and socializing. My renovations are finally moving toward completion as yours begin. My New Year was made happy by moving into my new bedroom and waking up there for this first time on New Year’s Day.

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I am Jean Potuchek, a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching. This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.

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