Our first few years in Port Townsend, we couldn't afford to buy a Christmas tree. The very first year we had no tree at all, but I cut laurel branches off a tree in our yard and put them around inside our home, cut out paper snowflakes and made paper ring garlands and draped these about the walls, and generally made things as festive as I could with what we had. Just like the Tiny Tim-inspired character of little Benny in the 1890 story "A Pine Cone Christmas", we told each other the important thing was knowing we were keeping Christmas.
The next couple years were much the same, with a slight improvement: there was a hedge of raggedy arbor vitae bushes in our back yard which I'd wanted to take down, and we realized that an arbor vitae can serve for a sort of Christmas tree —better than none, and again, the important thing was always to remember we were keeping Christmas. Each year Gabriel read aloud Christmas short stories and short novels like Dickens' A Christmas Carol and Kate Wiggins' The Birds' Christmas Carol. We reminded ourselves what a very Victorian philosophy it is to make the most out of every situation and be grateful for every blessing.
The year we were able to afford a real Christmas tree, small though it was, seemed like a tremendous step up in the world. Slowly but surely, we were making progress!
This year when we looked at the exorbitant prices of even small Christmas trees, we were very much afraid this would have to be another year without a tree. We've gone through the whole arbor vitae hedge by now, and the trees for sale this year are priced over the cost of all the food for Christmas dinner. Whatever happened though, we told each other we would keep the Christmas spirit, and that's what matters.
Only slightly discouraged and determined, as always, to make the best of things, I thought I remembered hearing some vague rumor about people sometimes being allowed to cut a single, family Christmas tree in the National Forest. So I did some research.
As it turns out, people CAN cut their own Christmas trees in the National Forests! A permit (available at park ranger stations) only costs five dollars in Washington state, and comes with a little map showing where to find the best Christmas trees. For more information go to: www.pickyourownchristmastree.org/WAxmaspermits.php (WA state) or www.fs.fed.us/visit/know-before-you-go/tree-cutting (national). So yesterday we went out to the Quilcene ranger station, bought our $5 permit, and went tree hunting!
We kept having to remind ourselves to keep a sense of scale in mind. In the Olympic National Forest, with its towering giants, it's very easy for even rather large trees to look small compared to the behemoths around them.
But, after a short and very fun hunt, we found a lovely, beautifully formed Douglas fir that would fit just right in our parlor.
We brought it home, and now it's spending Christmas with us!
Happy holidays, everyone!
Poems and stories related to Winter and Christmas:
Winter Cheer (Poem—1888)
A Christmas Glee (Poem—1890)
A Pine-Cone Christmas (1890)
A Midwinter-Night's Dream (1883)
Christmas Pensees (Poem—1890)
Santa Claus in Our Village (1889)