For some of us who celebrate Christmas, the procuring of a Yuletide tree is written into our memories. The scent of fir, spruce, or pine is carried throughout the house and with it comes a seasonal excitement for food, family, and festivity. One of my favourite authors, Tom Robbins, taught me that it's our sense of smell that triggers the most rich and evocative memories. The olfactory bulb, the receptor of odours, is connected to a part of the brain called the limbic system, an area closely associated with memory and emotion. It's no surprise that Christmas is a beloved holiday for many with its generous feast, its potpourri and pomanders, and its cheerful trees; it's built into our noses and our memories.
Now, growing up, my parents never brought a live Christmas tree into the house. They are "hard-working immigrants," and as cliché as that sounds, it's true. They didn't have a lot of time to immerse themselves into this new holiday and its traditions, and I'm sure carrying a large, prickly tree into the house wasn't at the top of their list of things to do when spare time was available. But we did have a plastic Christmas tree (usually made of polyvinyl chloride) and I remember assembling it and decorating it with incredible fondness. We had the tackiest ornaments, including a beloved spray-painted macaroni wreath (you can thank every second grade teacher of the 90s for those keepsakes). All-in-all, a very do-it-yourself endeavour.
When co-worker Karen May invited me to join her harvest-your-own Christmas tree adventure in the world's largest Greenbelt, I immediately accepted. I'd never seen anyone cut down a Christmas tree nor transport it home and I liked the idea of a local tree. Plus, it seemed quite in line with our Homemade for the Holidays idea! So, last weekend, we climbed into the Green Mobile and headed north to Rudolph’s Christmas Tree Farm in Orangeville.
Arriving there, we were invited to pick our choice of weapon. Then we were informed of how to identify the two “standard models,” the balsam fir and the spruce.
The spruce tree is slightly yellower in shade than the fir and its needles are conical and one consistent colour. The fir, on the other hand, had flat needles, which had lighter undersides and were softer to touch. Their colour was much bluer than that of the spruce.
After our lesson in trees, we were thrown into the field and began the arduous process of tree selection. Karen preferred trees with a portly, somewhat lopsided figure. Sammy the Red Squirrel, festively clad, joined in on the selection process but offered poor suggestions.
When we found the chosen spruce tree, we brushed the snow off its boughs and began to clear the base of some branches to access the trunk better. Then, after what I thought was a very short time sawing, the tree fell.
Rudolph’s team did a great job cleaning up the trunk and then slipped the tree into a Boston machine that trimmed, shook, and baled the tree in one foul swoop!
While we didn’t actually mount the tree on the car, Karen told me the proper tree-mounting technique: 1) Ensure the tree, properly baled, has its trunk facing the front of the car so when you drive, the wind works with the branches; 2) Use rope or cord to wrap around the tree and secure it to the roof rack or cargo hooks; 3) Stuff it into the car if you have the space and no rack or cord (being tongue-in-cheek here).
Whether your tree is spruce, fir, pine (specifically white pine, Shelley Petrie's favourite), or even polyvinyl chloride, I hope it is a very magical do-it-yourself experience.
— Jenny Chan