When I was younger, the most exciting day of the year was when we got our Christmas tree. For several years in a row, my dad took me to a Christmas tree farm, where I rode in Santa’s sleigh, climbed on a giant hay-bale play structure, spent ages staring at knickknacks in the gift shop, and cut down my own Christmas tree. That is, I cut it down in theory. I moved the axe back and forth a few times to no avail before my dad stepped in and did the work.

Our living room was always decorated, our house always lit up. If we had only had some lighted reindeers, Christmas would have been, in my 7-year-old mind, perfect.

For a long time, though, my family has taken a much more minimalistic approach to Christmas. We’ve given up hanging lights. Instead, after dinner each year, we walk around looking at other people’s lights. Or better yet, if we’re at my aunt’s house, we drive to the richest parts of L.A. and ogle the elaborate decorations on the beautiful mansions.

Probably our most unusual new “tradition” is our tree. Three years ago, a squirrel planted a pine tree in the middle of my mom’s garden. At my request she dug it up, put it in a pot, and brought it inside to function as our Christmas tree. It was too tiny to support even the lightest ornaments. We put it on top of a card table so that it wouldn’t be hidden by the presents surrounding it.

So far this year, the extent of our Christmas decorating has been moving the now almost three-foot-tall tree from our yard to our house. My family has definitely learned to take the path of least resistance when it comes to Christmas.

My aunt constantly makes fun of our tree for being puny and funny looking. Which is true, but I prefer to call it quirky and unique. I’m really very proud of it for getting big enough to hold actual ornaments (not that I’ve yet taken the time to decorate it).

Unlike last year, our tree is finally big enough not to be completely overshadowed by a single poinsettia.

It’s fun to see it grow and compare pictures from year to year. It’s not nearly as grandiose as a bought Christmas tree yet, but every year I’m glad to know that our tree isn’t going to be turned into redwood shavings a week later. Having a living tree, even a minuscule one, seems somehow more in the Christmas spirit—evergreen trees are meant to symbolize life, after all—than cutting down a tree that gets thrown out soon after the holidays or buying a tree-shaped piece of plastic.

 

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