Christmas is my favorite holiday for more reasons than I can count, and for once not even focused on the edible aspects of the celebrations. Don’t get me wrong — I adore the cookies (making/baking/eating/sharing) and the fruitcake (not ironic; I really do!) and the eggnog (even in an occasional over-the-top latte) and the signature confections from coconut cake and buche de noel to black walnut fudge and Crachit-family-worthy plum pudding. But it wasn’t a big year for special meals and cooking. Fruitcake and coconut cake happened, as did a glorious day of cookie-making thanks to my wonderful cousin Libbie, keeper of the Christmas-cookie party flame. But it was a low-key season overall
What I adore most of all about Christmas celebrations is having a gigantic, fresh, aromatic, from-the-NC-mountains Christmas tree at home; one which we usually get just a few days before Christmas from a local nonprofit organization. Our living room has very high ceilings, meaning we can get a most unwieldy and enormous tree, and that we do, usually at a bit of discount since we go to get it so close to the actual holiday.
But this year, I procrastinated even more than usual, and ended up heading out on Christmas eve morning to get our tree. And discovered that all the trees at all the places I could think of within reasonable distance (25 minutes drive) were gone. No sign of the lots, the trees, the ropes, the greenery, the ribbons, the commerce, the signage — All. Gone. So okay, I’m a good sport. Time for Plan B! and so we scooted to a big discount-y store to get an artificial tree. There we found a picked-over, puny tree or two, costing over $100. Not an option.
So we decided that though the poem says that “…Only God can make a tree…”, we might could come up with a tree-like creation that would do what Christmas trees do. We bought a small, table-top-sized, living evergreen tree/shrub/bush in a pot; we got out assorted empty boxes, a wheeled ice-chest, some Christmas-themed table cloths, and the red flannel gold rickrack-trimmed tree skirt made my my mother in the early 1960’s. We put them together, stacked and re-stacked, enfolded them in colorful cloth, wrapped them with Christmas lights, added ornaments, and topped it with the big puffy bow from a lovely gift basket of fruit we had received last week, and here’s what we made:
It’s a holiday hack! In resolving this problem, which I first faced with despair, regret, and self-loathing of epic albeit temporary proportions, I moved from gloom to inspiration to pride in two hours’ time. We don’t have our grand tree, and all those ornaments will go unseen for a year; but it’s all okay. It worked out. It’s a year to remember, and I’m thinking that putting away the holiday cheer will be a snap. We are feeling rather tickled with ourselves for sorting things out.
Here’s the tree — kind of like a cake topper, like the whipped cream on a hot-fudge sundae! It has Christmas tree aroma for real, and it holds a surprisingly large number of ornaments.
Baby Boomers among you are gasping with recognition — OMG — my mom made us the VERY SAME TREE SKIRT! Red felt! Golden rick-rack! Pinking shears! June Cleaver and Donna Reid’s tree skirts were doubtless fancier, but I wouldn’t trade mine, no sirreee!
Side table snowglobe. Yes, it plays “White Christmas”.
One wonderful family member pulled out this forgotten ice skating rink, which STILL WORKS!!!! Plugged in, the skaters skate around and the tobagganers teeter on the hillside, The train needs some big batteries, and the puzzle — oh heavenly days. A 1000 piece puzzle, a gift from last year. A work in progress. But I haven’t given up. It’s under the tablecloth. We’ll get back to it after January 6th.
All the tree really has to do is provide a place for presents to gather. and this one did that job just fine.
One trio of holiday goodness: A dear friend sent me this heavy, historic, handy and happy-making Lodge cast-iron skillet, which needed a little breaking in to get it going. Just so happened we went shopping at Ronnie’s Country Store in Winston-Salem NC with other dear friends, and came home with a good supply of very fine North Carolina smoked and salt-cured country ham, sliced in to steaks in need of a cast-iron skillet.
A match made in heaven. This ham in that skillet, with old-school grits and scrambled eggs, needed only one other thing: popovers. I made ’em, and they were wonderful.
We’ll be celebrating for another few days, since the Twelve Days of Christmas only began on Christmas Day. After January 6th, Epiphany, we will disassemble our once-in-a-lifetime tree and plant the sweet little topper out in the woodsy back yard; a souvenir of an unusual year in which we cooked up our own Christmas tree.
Sending you my very best as this year ends and a new one begins. I hope that you find gifts and blessings in abundance as this holiday season comes to an end, and that your new year brings health, happiness, inspiration, and good company. Happy New Year to you!
Happy New Year!