The Great Christmas Tree Debate of the mid-1990s became a lesson to me in obedience. It’s a lesson I still glean from 25 years later…
The Great Christmas Tree Debate
“But everyone has a fake tree!” I argued.
My sister and I had been begging for what felt like years for our parents to buy one of those plastic trees we’d seen in department stores, all twinkling and hung with professional, color-coordinated decor. We swooned. We coveted.
“My friends get to put up their trees in November, already,” I whined.
Mom and Dad looked unconvinced.
Even though our family had purchased a real pine tree every Christmas for as long as I could remember, I was determined not to give up the fight until they agreed.
Because our Christmas tradition required me to practice certain virtues that are excruciating for the teenage condition, things like patience and obedience.
My Childhood Christmas Tree Tradition
Purchasing a real Christmas tree meant that we couldn’t even THINK about picking out our tree until a few weeks before Christmas. While our friends were busily decking the halls throughout November, we waited.
Once December rolled around, we waited some more, because Mom and Dad still needed to arrange a day for us to drive to the tree lot together. This arrangement was dependent upon:
- our social calendar (they didn’t enjoy being too busy),
- whether or not my parents already had intentions to drive into town on other business that day (multi-tasking saves fuel), and
- the road conditions (better late than sorry).
My parents’ time-conscious, money-conscious, safety-first decisions drove me up the wall.
When the anticipated day arrived, my sister and I would scour the lot and pick out the best tree from the bunch. Then, we’d wait in the car while Dad stood in the icy wind to secure the tree to the car roof with twine.
As happy as we were that we finally had our tree, we both knew that when we got home, Dad would still need to haul the tree into his heated shop so the icy branches could thaw overnight.
Oh, the agony of waiting, still more!
After Dad got home from work the next day – and AFTER he’d eaten a good supper – he would drag the heavy tree inside the house and bolt its sappy trunk into a hand-crafted, metal tree stand he’d made himself years before.
After a month-and-a-half of waiting and a two-day tree-picking ordeal, we could FINALLY decorate!
One Final Argument
All that waiting every year was torturous, which is why I just couldn’t let The Great Christmas Tree Debate die. I had to try one more time. And this time, I attempted to persuade my parents by appealing to my dad’s frugality:
“But think of the money you could save, Dad. Just think. You pay twenty-five dollars for a fresh tree every year, and then we throw it away. If we bought a fake one, it would pay for itself in just four years!”
Yet, the answer remained a firm, “No,” and “End of discussion.”
My teenage brain couldn’t fathom how my, and my sister’s, admirable persistence wasn’t able to win them over. Why wouldn’t they budge? My pride said they were ridiculous for not agreeing with our arguments. Why couldn’t they see we were right?
Although I felt frustrated and annoyed, I finally released my will to theirs – not because I wanted to but because they’d taught me to obey.
Christmas Tree Disclaimer: There are good reasons to get a real Christmas tree, and there are good reasons to get a fake Christmas tree. (I've stood on both sides of the argument; and in the end, I don't believe there's a right or a wrong choice in the matter.)
My Current Christmas Tree Tradition
It’s been 25 years since The Great Christmas Tree Debate. I’m now married, a mother of three, and a major fan of real Christmas trees.
As a parent, I delight in the Christmas traditions our family has created over the years – many of which are centered around a freshly cut pine tree:
- We all bundle up and brave the icy Manitoba roads to visit our local tree farm, then tromp through the back acres in search of the perfect tree to cut down.
- After sawing the trunk, we plunk it into a plastic sled and drag it to the tree shed. (When my kids were little, they loved to jump into the sled along with the tree, and hitch a ride!)
- While employees shake the needles from our tree, we climb aboard a sleigh pulled by massive farm horses and enjoy a frigid ride through the pine rows.
- Next, we fly down the toboggan hill until we’re too cold to feel our noses.
- To warm up, we step inside the tree farm’s timber-frame shop where we eat peanuts and home-made cookies and drink sweet hot chocolate.
We have our tree, but the fun is not done!
- When we get home, my husband is in charge of setting up the tree. (Years ago, when we were young parents and had little cash to spare, he constructed a hefty tree stand out of an old steel rim. We still use the old tree-wheel today.)
- Once the tree trunk is bolted inside the rim, my husband relaxes on the couch. His job is done.
- Decorations are next! My children each have their favorite nutcrackers to hang, plus special ornaments they’ve received as gifts over the years.
- I try not to micro-manage where they place each item. We laugh and get in each other’s way and play Christmas music.
Through all this tree-getting and tree-trimming, my heart fairly bursts with joy.
After many Christmases with my own children in my own home, I now recognize a few of the good reasons why my parents stood firm in The Great Christmas Tree Debate. I understand that:
- Anticipation makes tradition sweeter.
- Cherishing family traditions is sometimes more important than succumbing to teenage whims.
- Dad expended far more energy in getting our tree than we ever did in our waiting.
- The fragrance of pine needles filling the house is worth the inconvenience and the cold.
- Mom and Dad said “No” for us.
As a teenager, when I relinquished my fight – when I choose obedience in The Great Christmas Tree Debate – I felt I’d lost the battle.
As an adult, I can see that that wasn’t the case at all. Choosing obedience was a “win,” because I had chosen respect, love, honour, and a willingness to release my own will in favour of my parents’.
Just as my parents had good reasons for their way of doing things, God has good reasons for his way of working in our lives, too.Tweet
Bending my will to my parents’ was a stepping stone lesson about surrender to good and proper authority. It prepared me to accept the will of my Father in heaven, especially when my human eyes can’t see how God’s way is better than my own.
Christmas is Coming!
What a wonderful Father we have! He sent his Son to set us free from our bondage to sin, he guides us onto right paths, and he teaches us to how to obey.
Yes, the more I surrender to the Father’s will, the freer I become. And the freer I am, the more I bear the image of Christ to those around me.
Christmas is an amazing time to celebrate our freedom in Christ.Tweet
Christmas is our remembrance of how Christ came into our world, as a baby, to bring us that freedom!
What Are Your Favourite Christmas Traditions?
I love Christmas! I’ve shared one of my family’s Christmas traditions with you here today. Will you share one with me? I’d be honoured if you’d share one of your Christmas traditions in the comments below.
Want to read more true Christmas stories about my family? Try these:
- Operation Love Bomb: A True Christmas Story about Kindness
- Christmas, Revamped: A True Christmas Story about Resilience