Making Merry: The Great Tree Hunt

Making Merry is our first guest series. Every Friday of Advent we'll hear from a lady about how she and her family make the Christmas season merry. GraceMarie is a lovely friend from my college days. She and her husband, Brett, currently live in the Chicago area, but she grew up in California. Today she shares about her family's tree hunt tradition.

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Saturday morning, we throw on our closest equivalent to Winter attire—sweatshirts and jeans, maybe a scarf—even though the weather normally settles somewhere between 70 and 80 for the day. But we're determined to play the part, Californians or not, and we all pile into our van. 

We are on a hunt for the perfect Christmas tree.  

Now, it's important to know that the perfect Lambert Christmas tree isn't just any Christmas tree. It's one that "speaks" to us—one that’s broad enough for Christina, sparse enough for me, and tall enough for Hannah. For my Dad and brother, it has to be a size they can actually fit through the door. My mom holds the final veto. She, of course, has to look at it the most, she argues. 

On arriving at the tree farm, we are all hot, still tired, and we've bickered just the tiniest amount—because it's tradition, obviously. 

But we shake all these less than holiday feelings off in the rush of excitement that comes with pine trees and seasonal festivities. 

The trees are tall and beautiful and there are many. 

This won't be easy. 

We begin in a rush—racing from tree to tree, until someone suggests a more systematic approach. But the key here is that whoever "feels" most deeply wins the day; whoever can throw him or herself down in front of the tree with the most passion (Ahem—I may or may not be guilty of prostrations in the dirt), or whoever can get my mom on their side.  

Once we pick the tree, we deem it not just perfect but more importantly “ours”. And we pile back in the car—a little warmer than we started (especially if you’ve run around the tree farm yelling “they’re speaking to me, the trees are speaking!), but all as jolly as could be. And we blast Christmas carols all the way home. 

Then we decorate—with all the funky, precious, and dear ornaments of old. We pull out shoeboxes with “Grace’s Ornaments” and “Christina” written in childish script on the sides and unpack our own collections, ornaments that represent things uniquely us. Porcelain ballet shoes from one year, a bear reading the Iliad from another… all carrying with them the tiniest memories. We exclaim over my parents’ beautiful “first Christmas” ornament, and we tell stories—folklore my mom would call it—about favorite moments or “that time when….” 

And when everything is decorated and hung, and Christina has regulated where every ornament should be placed in order to have the correct spacing on the tree, we still the whole house and darken every light.

Everything goes silent. 

And we open Christmas season, normally with something slightly goofy (one year Christina gave the first gift of Christmas, which happened to be Hannah wrapped in huge amounts of wrapping paper with a giant bow) and with something solemn (Silent Night sung completely out of tune with candles). And then we flip on the Christmas tree lights, and it glows. 

We gaze satisfied. And we sit as a family, preparing our hearts for the season we’re entering. 

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