Reflections from a Novice Homesteader: The Family Tree, A New Holiday Tradition

I’ve never been big on hiding away decorations so that once a year I could spend days working on displaying them while only a month later taking them down.

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Ashley Torres Kritz
Our Family's Christmas trees in 2021: Pink and pineapple guavas.

A couple of years ago, my family started a new holiday tradition. Now mind you, I’ve never been big on squirreling away boxes of decorations so that once a year I could spend days working on displaying them only a month later to spend days taking them down. It’s the same for picture taking and most merrymaking. It’s the same reason clothes never get ironed and my face hasn’t seen make-up in years. Call it lazy, or slovenly, or Scroogish, or whatever you wish. 

Contemplating Time and Money

When it comes to extensive holiday decorating? For me? Why? Magic exists everywhere. Every second, a celebration of what is. My energy feels limited. Time…seemingly finite. These days I’m favoring less stuff, or at least a more nature inspired theme: things you can compost or toss back into the landscape when done. I’ve found that free minutes here and a few unconquered instants there can add up to real, whole moments in which I can make a meal from scratch,  scatter some seed in the garden before the rain, or pause in the rush of life to ensure a body-mind that feels more connected. 

So it’s not surprising that as we stood in a parking lot one early December, in a not too distant past, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the price they wanted for the family Christmas tree. This tree was dying. Where did it come from? How was it grown? How many miles did it travel while suffering this fate– to be sold in the parking lot of this hardware store? What else could we use that money for? 

Evaluating the Status Quo

Christmas movies flashed in front of my eyes. Families in station wagons rounded bends on snowy passes and trudged through forests to pick the One. We, on the other hand, were looking for the One in an open lot covered with asphalt.

For some, certain holidays mean certain things. For some, Christmas equals a big pine, fir, or spruce covered in lights and snow dust.  For some, that makes sense because they live where those trees grow and where it actually snows. 

It dawned on me that I lived in a part of California where the most common tree around is the oak. Rather than cutting down a young oak in our canyon, or even just the limb of a more mature one (which didn’t fit the traditional image of the Christmas tree anyway), we opted to add to the homestead by purchasing a live tree, not a live Christmas tree, but a citrus tree. 

It was small, but adorned with only our most treasured ornaments and some fairy lights, it was still magical.  

Redefining Seasonal Values

After a few weeks of sitting in our house and squeezing its brightness over the presents, the best part was our Christmas citrus wasn’t a fire hazard or a waste product afterward. Rather, the family got to plant a fruit tree for the new year.

I may not have too many photos of that one Christmas morning, and we weren’t wearing matching sweaters or pajamas anyway, but when I eat the oranges from the tree out back, I taste the sweetness of the smiles on my children’s faces as they unwrapped gifts and sipped their cocoa.

Each new season, our Christmas citrus, or other fruit bearing tree, will dig its roots, and grow its branches, and provide in the years to come. That, to me, sings blessings, and hope, and peace here on Earth– and that is what I wish for you all. May your days be merry and bright, however you choose to celebrate them. 

Ashley Torres Kritz is a former high school teacher who now spends her time being with the land and her family on their small homestead. Read all of Ashley’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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