Setting up and decorating the Christmas tree is one of the things my children look most forward to this time of year. We always use an artificial tree, which isn't quite like having a real tree, but there are a lot of good reasons to utilize them. They are reusable, economical, and they don't dry up and become a fire hazard. But, artificial trees do not have the beautiful, refreshing smell of a pine or cedar. I always gather some cedar cuttings for decoration and to bring home the smell of the season.
Where we live pine trees are uncommon, but red cedars are plentiful. They will grow just about anywhere. Cedars are different then pine trees, but they are conifers, like pines. Instead of having straight needles like a pine, cedars have bushy, fernlike limbs. They also do not have pinecones, but sometimes bear little blue balls, B-B's. They are usually chopped down if found growing in a pasture, but a lot of them are left in fence rows, where they can be seen growing for years.
I have fond memories of an old-fashioned Christmas tree. When I was little, we would drive out through the pasture in search of a cedar Christmas tree. Pasture space for the cows was a high priority to my dad. He kept the cedar population on our farm very minimal. We had a neighbor, however, who did not have cattle, and let them grow on her rocky hillside. She was a sweet older widow woman who would kindly offer us any cedar she had for a Christmas tree. I remember seeing lots of pretty trees, but mom and dad would pick one out that was the right size and we would cut it down and take it to the house.
It's amazing to me how a certain smell can flood your mind with memories. When I smell fresh cedar, I am instantly reminded of the Christmas of my youth and all the fun of decorating the tree. I remember stringing popcorn with moms large darning needles, and the hours I spent making construction paper loops to form paper chains to go around the tree or over a doorway. It was hard to wait patiently on my dad to put the lights up and my mom to get the garlands hung around the tree before we could help. My brothers and I had fun unwrapping all the ornaments and finding a spot for each of them on the tree. We also ended off with adding silver icicles and the star on top, then we would turn on the lights...Beautiful!
Have fun this Christmas season sharing fond memories of Christmas past with your family, and making new ones. I would love to hear what your favorite traditions are for this magical time of year.