There was a time when people decorated real trees for Christmas.
For illumination, people clipped candles onto the tree branches and lit them. As the trees dried out, they became flammable. Our tree burned when this writer was around four years old.
The parents ran a gimnasium, which is the equivalent of a high school, for Hungarian girls. At the time, the school was in a wing of a German monastery. Good thing it was a stone building or things could have been worse than they were.
Images of water buckets passing from hand to hand are still vivid in this lady’s memories. Unfortunately, the single toy the young girl received burned along with the tree.
As folks modernize their lives and left simpler times behind, people began to choose artificial trees over real ones. The first fake trees appeared in Germany around the 1880s to combat deforestation. Folks made those early trees with goose down that was dyed green.
This writer’s first recollection of seeing artificial trees was between the late 1950s to somewhere in the 1960s. More often than not, such aluminum trees were in department stores. But later, they appeared in the homes for a stylish effect. Instead of candles, folks used rotating spotlights to illuminate the trees.
At first, manufactured Christmas trees ended up with an unfortunate resemblance to toilet brushes. Compared to them, a goose down Christmas tree seems more desirable.
There are a few pluses on the side of artificial trees. The first is you do not have to buy a tree every year. Second, the fake trees do not shed their needles like the real ones do, making clean up easy.
Even after our family moved to Minnesota, the parents still had real Christmas trees. After we moved to Oklahoma, they invested in an artificial tree. With the purchase of the artificial tree came the concession to use electric lights instead of candles. Had the fire department known of candle-lit trees, they would have had flaming cows.
Although the decorations on the parents’ tree clung to the old ways, with angel hair covering the tree, the combination of white bulbs and the angel hair gave it an ethereal look.
When children move out of the parental home and get married, they either turned their backs on family traditions or continued them. In case you are wondering, this lady lived at home until she married. The option to move out was non-existent because of the parents’ European mindset. The one time their daughter wanted to share an apartment with a girlfriend, the matriarch of the family refused to give her permission to do so.
“You can move out if you move to another town. What will people think if you live in the same town as we do?” the mother demanded.
Her daughter’s response, “We are not Chinese and saving face, is not an issue.”
Not surprisingly, saving face was an old-world family issue. Consequently, the daughter lived in the family home until she married.
Hubby and his wife carried on the real tree Christmas tradition until the year the available trees were ghastly. If you wanted a full tree, you had to buy two trees and wire them together. For a young couple on a budget, buying two trees was not an option. Consequently, they invested in an artificial tree that lasted over ten years.
Reminiscing with an elderly gentleman about how his family switched from real to artificial Christmas trees, he suddenly started laughing. “We had our fake tree for so long that it started shedding. That is when the wife demanded we buy a new tree.” He paused, then added with a chuckle, “I suppose after 20 years, even the fake needles stopped pretending.”
After Christmas, Hubby always packed our tree in the original box, but the year before he passed, he did not take the tree apart. He shoved it, as is, in our storage shed. Imagine his squeamish wife’s surprise when she found the tree covered in cobwebs and a couple of field rat nests.
She bought a new tree.