The Search For The Perfect Christmas Tree

Few things can be as dividing in a family as the selection of The Perfect Christmas Tree. Battle lines are drawn, weapons are deployed, and the winner takes all. One can smell the blood lust in the air (around this time of year, blood lust smells like those scented cinnamon pine cones).

My family was (and still is) firmly entrenched in the “Real” camp, so every year we took the annual pilgrimage to Frank’s Nursery and Crafts to find The Perfect Christmas Tree. My memories of picking out Christmas trees have pooled into one collective memory: it is dark outside, and very cold. Gusts of wind slice through our coats, hats, and mittens. No one is happy. It is not fully snowing, but there is moisture of some kind- maybe sleet? frozen rain?-in the air. (Note to all the southern readers: Yes, snow is beautiful for the first six hours, and then it turns into a grey sludge. It is not amazing. It is not fun. It is cold and wet and makes a huge mess and turns everyone into the Worst-Driver-The-World-Has-Ever-Seen.)

In the Midwest, it is dark by 4:30 in the afternoon around Christmas time. As picking out a Christmas tree is a family activity, we would go in the evening to accommodate my father as his boss insisted he work during the day and not ride around, picking out Christmas trees. Now that my sisters and I are all grown up, he no longer has to attend the Annual Pilgrimage. (I totally blame him for the demise in the quality of my parent’s trees.)

In the dark, all the trees look the same. In the cold, wet dark, no one cares what the tree looks like anyway. I can remember going outside, looking at the same damn tree over and over again (to be fair, it might have been several different trees. But, seriously, who could tell?).

Once we reached a quorum of family members with numb extremities, we would go inside to defrost and ‘look at ornaments’. I think my parents thought that we would be better behaved due to hypothermia, but we were not. If anything, we saved energy by going into a sort of hibernation mode, much like bears do in the winter months. As soon as we would defrost, all of the energy would hit us, like a shot of adrenaline. I remember running through aisles as fast as I could with total disregard for the numerous delicate- and highly breakable- ornaments on display. (I also remember eating lots of candy canes, which I am sure contributed to the perfect storm of overly excited children surrounded by breakable things.)

After a few minutes of running around, we were warm enough to again brave the elements, and so we headed back outside and repeated the cycle of staring at the same trees from different angles trying to determine if it was, in fact, The Perfect Christmas Tree…

Candy Canes Are So Overrated

The Candy Cane is a universal symbol for Christmas. Well, maybe not universal but definitely recognizable. I love the idea of candy canes- a refreshing, yet sweet treat that reminds us of Christmas. However, the candy cane does have one fatal flaw… they are a nightmare to eat.

Any enjoyment of this treat is destroyed by the thick slime that is created when spit collects in the plastic cellophane wrapper and smothers the candy, creating a goo that has the adhesive properties of super glue and is just as difficult to remove. This goo sticks to fingers, clothes, and stray, flyaway hairs with a fierce tenacity. And, worst of all, this goo ruins the rest of the candy cane. Once the goo attacks the virgin candy, it is ruined; un-eatable.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, the candy cane manufacturers (“elves”) believe that Bigger Is Better, and therefore produce the most massive candy canes imaginable. These beasts are truly ‘canes’ as they could double for a real cane in a pinch, like when Grandma comes to Christmas dinner. No one in the history of the world has ever finished one of these monstrosities. Frankly, I don’t think anyone actually wants to eat all of that sticky peppermint. Even if someone WANTED to attempt to conquer the ‘cane, the spit goo would eat the lower two inches of the cane anyway!  There can be too much of a good thing… Sure peppermint is great (especially with chocolate- Andes Mint anyone?).  However, Andes mints aside, there is a reason that peppermint is a limited, time-of-year treat- without its chocolate compliment, it is just not that good. Peppermint also does not lend itself well to other candy marriages. Peppermint Twix? No thanks. Peppermint SweeTarts? Not so much… I spotted some Christmas (peppermint flavored) Peeps at Target the other day… in the clearance section, marked down 90%. No takers. The take home message is that  some treats are meant to be seasonal (sweetheart conversation hearts, I’m looking at you), and some are amazing year ‘round (let’s hear it for Snickers and M&Ms!).

In my opinion, the mini candy cane is a more desirable option, as the goo is not a factor and it is a more enjoyable size. Although these are almost always broken, I still think they are better as they are much easier to eat than the larger ones. The straight part is easy- although accidental stabbings do occur- the bendy part is a nightmare. It is impossible to fit it into ones mouth comfortably!

Candy canes have nothing to offer me, really. Emma is convinced that she loves them, but she is also convinced that pink zebra tutus are the must-have accessory of the season. You all enjoy your candy canes; I am off to find the Christmas cookies!