Choosing a Christmas Tree

Choosing a Christmas tree

It was interesting to read Sam’s account (at A Coastal Plot) of buying her Christmas tree because it’s not something I ever do. So, in contrast, here’s the view from the other side of the sales counter. Our visitors’ ages range from babes in arms to the very aged. We have customers who love every glittering moment of Christmas celebrations and those who profess to detest the whole shebang. Let me introduce you to some of them.

The Perfectionist

Selina wafts into the barn in fur lined boots, layered knits and a cloud of expensive perfume. She heads straight for the eight foot trees and within moments has one of the Christmas Barn staff pulling out every tree in that section for her scrutiny. Trees that don’t meet her high standards are instantly dismissed until the choice is whittled down to two specimens which are rotated for her so she can view them from every angle. Decision made, she’ll ask for a few stray branches to be trimmed and a slice to be sawn from the base and then the tree is netted and taken to her car while Selina visits The Barley Barn to choose decorations.

Selina is a firm believer in perpetuating the myth that the Christmas tree is decorated by the tree fairies while children are at school and so her tree is beautifully co-ordinated with every bauble and light strategically placed and not a child produced cotton wool decorated snowman in sight. Sometimes Selina buys a small tree for her children to decorate but allows them only to buy decorations in this year’s colour scheme. And definitely nothing as tacky as a felt penguin or glittery peacock.

Man in the Van

Dave strides in five minutes before the Christmas Barn closes for the day under instructions from “the wife” to pick up a tree on his way home. He picks the first tree on the end of the row, pulls out a roll of notes to pay for it, doesn’t bother to have the tree netted because he’s in the work van and is out of the barn before closing time. Job done.

The Ditherers

Babs and Brian choose their Christmas tree so that it can be up by the first of December. Babs would like an enormous tree but Brian would like a smaller tree. Babs wants a Nordman Fir so that the cat doesn’t poke its eye on sharp spruce needles but Brian prefers the smell of the Norway Spruce.

After a spirited discussion and perusal of the available trees, they compromise and decide to have an average height tree. Babs take charge, looking for “the one” while Brian trails behind. She dismisses all the Norway spruce as unsuitable and picks out a Nordman fir for Brian to hold, so that nobody else can take it, while she continues her search. Eventually Babs narrows her choice to four trees, which Brian guards and then has to hold up each in turn for her inspection, while keeping a close eye on the other three. Brian doesn’t appear to notice that someone has taken away one of the trees and then he mistakenly puts one back on the rack and loses track of it.

With only two to choose between, Babs finally decides and then, just to check, swaps places with Brian so he can confirm her choice. Not surprisingly, Brian agrees almost immediately that she has found the perfect tree.

The Jolly Family

Derek and Eileen have been coming here for nearly fifty years. They don’t like driving nowadays so their son and his family bring them along to continue the tradition of starting the Christmas season by choosing the Christmas tree en famille. This year they’ve been joined by their first great grandchild in one of those new-fangled car seats that turn into a pushchair.

Derek and Eileen no longer buy a Christmas tree but instead choose wreaths to lay on their parents’ graves while the younger generations, clad in their Christmas jumpers and jingling reindeer antlers, pick their trees amidst much jollity and photo snapping on their phones. There isn’t room in one of the cars for a tree and passengers so Derek and Eileen’s grandson puts down the roof of his Mini convertible, straps the Christmas tree into the passenger seat and drives off with a toot of his horn to his grandparents.

And also …

There is one family who always choose the ugliest tree they can find because otherwise nobody will pick it and it will have a sad Christmas all alone and another family who like to Lucky Dip by picking a tree that’s still in its net.

Mostly though, we have a steady stream of happy people spreading the Christmas spirit.


48 thoughts on “Choosing a Christmas Tree

  1. Anne, what a great post. My trees are getting smaller every year and I’m always the one that picks them because my husband could care less. Happy Holidays!

  2. We were only talking on the way home from school just now about when we’ll come over to choose our “special” tree that you can’t sell because no-one else wants it! I like giving a home to the weird, slightly lopsided ones. Add a string of lights and some non-matching, eclectic mix of baubles and it looks just as good as Perfectionist Selina’s if you look at it through squinted eyes.

  3. Lovely post – had me chuckling away! I’m afraid we have a synthetic tree (plastic?) – it’s very easy – but, oh I do miss the smell of a proper tree and the ritual of choosing it – and, I’d also be looking for the wonky little tree nobody loves 🙂

    1. I think there’s something special about the ritual of choosing the tree, but you don’t have to sweep up after a synthetic tree and it does seem a strange custom to drag in an enormous tree that takes up most of the space at the very time when you have lots of guests.

  4. Chose our tree yesterday and it is currently clad in lights and tinsel, waiting for the Mudlets’ to decorate it after tea (now Middle Muddlet has finished her homework). Sadly we turned up at our usual local Christmas tree seller only to find them closed for good, such a shame, so we detoured to the large garden centre instead.

    1. We either get the one that no-one wants or if we sell out then we go and chop down a tree. This year we still have an unsold 20 foot tree, which will be rather difficult to fit through the front door so I hope it gets sold this week.

    1. When the children were younger they’d go out to choose their tree each week but by the end of the week it was always sold. One year Bill even sold our tree on Christmas Eve (I don’t take my tree in until we’ve closed on Christmas Eve). By the time I get to Christmas I don’t really care whether I have a tree.

    1. Me neither! We had a woman in this year who told the children they could each choose a decoration for their own small tree but then vetted their choices. She visibly shuddered when one child chose a turquoise decoration because this year her tree is going to be gold. Must admit that in the end we egged one of her children to choose a stuffed penguin decoration and then persuaded her to let him keep it. I suspect it may have got lost on the way home though.

  5. Oh I love this. I can remember walking the lower field where we had Christmas trees planted when I was a teenager. People had to find the one they wanted cut and sometimes it took a while! Your characterizations are spot on.

    1. We have a few people who we cut down a tree for but it takes them even longer to decide on a tree when they’re out in the field. Also, a tree in the field looks quite small but when you take it inside, it looks enormous.

  6. summer in Sydney but we always have a real Christmas tree to decorate and to perfume the whole house with heavenly pine. First day of the school holidays and we go to the big Sydney markets to chose a tree which is tied down to the roof of the car for the happy trip home. Making childhood memories! Happy Christmas to you and yours with thanks for all your musings during the year.

    1. You’re spot on about making childhood memories. Somehow tying the tree on the roof of the car is so much better than ramming it in the boot – maybe it’s more like slinging it onto your shoulder and carrying it back from the woods. Happy Christmas.

  7. I really enjoyed this Anne! We’ve never had a real tree so choosing a tree is something I’ve never thought of either. You get so many characters in retail, don’t you?

    Merry Christmas!
    Sarah x

  8. Christmas trees aren´t a tradition here, but I have a hedgerow I could plant a few along and then cut one for myself. Do you have recommendations for trees to grow yourself?

    I had a go at making a wreath, since I had to decorate something, and that was a lot more involved than I thought. After four hours of cutting and wiring, it´s hung and glittering, but slowly going from circular, to oval to rhombus.

  9. My dad used to grow christmas trees when I was a kid. Each year he would hire a shed near Winchester and we would take all the trees from where they were grown in the New Forest to the Winchester shed. Folk like you describe would arrive on a family outing and pick out a tree and ask Dad the price. But the fly in the ointment was my dad, he was a terrible salesperson and almost immediately he would start a whole bargaing process and cut the price of the tree with out being asked.

    Even as a kid I knew for sure those well heeled customers would have been happy to pay whatever he asked. It was just that dad had never paid for a tree in his life and he could not imagine that others would willingly hand over several pounds more than he would for the pleasure of a real christmas tree. Needless to say me and my brother always tried to send him down the back of the shed when people came to the counter to pay.

    I haven’t thought about that for years, thanks for the memory!

    1. That’s why we price our trees up beforehand! We used to just hold the tree up against a stick and work out the price from that but inevitably when you have a nice customer standing there it’s easy to just knock a little off the price. That said, I remember one really obnoxious customer who wound everybody up so much that when his tree was measured, the base was almost a foot off the ground putting it into a higher price rane.

  10. What a lovely post. I have sort of forgotten about the Christmas tree hunt and what goes into picking out the perfect tree. Thank you, I really enjoyed this little encounter.

  11. Funny post Anne, I hope you have a very happy holiday and rest, thats if you get a holiday at this time of year! The field at the bottom of our garden was once the home to a man who grew Christmas trees for a living, he has moved on and now we have three veterans in view that could grace Trafalgar Square. We just cut a few branches to decorate the house and skip the indoors tree!

    1. Sounds ideal to me. When people buy a pot grown tree I ask if there’s room in the garden as people often don’t realise just how large the trees can grow.

  12. It’s just as well we don’t live nearer or I have a horrible feeling I’d end up on your list. We walk round with a tape measure.. ceiling heights are low!
    I think our predecessor bought a rooted tree every year and then put it out in the garden. There’s a row of them, each one slightly lower than the preceding one. He’d lived here 27 years.. the tallest is now probably over 50′ high.

    1. How sensible to take a tape measure. You wouldn’t believe how many people tell us they had to cut off a foot or so from the tree they bought the previous year. I

  13. Haha, I love it! Gosh people who can truly curate a stylish tree with children in the house, I almost have to admire them for the amount of will and force that would take.
    I could make a similar list about fabric shop customers. I think I’m going to have to start giving them names now!
    We have a pinus radiata in a pot, which I’ve managed to keep alive for a number of years. It’s a terrible shape but has a certain charm because it’s ‘ours’.

    1. The problem with giving them names is that sometimes we nudge each other and whisper (man in the van …). Today we’ve been doing turkey collections and as each customer walks through the door we try to guess their name. We also have a book going to see who can guess the last person to collect their turkey.

  14. This is very clever Anne…it made me laugh. Almost like a personality test based on Christmas trees. I especially like the felt penguin, glittery peacock and cotton wool decorated snowman reference. I must admit there was a time in my life when I didn’t find these sorts of decorations particularly appealing. Now, I love the colourful bits and pieces that the children make. They wont make them forever! I hope the Christmas customers are treating you well x

    1. Much as I loved the children’s decorations when they made them, it seemed very strange for a hulking great teenage son to insist I put up his decoration made when he was five! Mysteriously, all their school made decorations have now disappeared.

  15. I think I am the type that would pick the runt of the littler, as it where. A lovely post Anne. Wishing you and yours a joyful Christmas. Compliments of the season to you XX

  16. This was such a fantastic post- brought back such great memories for me! As a kid, my dad and I were in charge of picking out the tree. We would go to *several* barns before selecting the most ‘perfect’ one. It was always cold. We drank hot chocolate. And we were allowed to decorate it anyway we wanted (glass baubles and all 😉 Hope you are enjoying the festive season, my friend. xx

    1. I always thought the children should be allowed to decorate the tree (I’m useless anyway so they can’t make a worse job) but we lost several glass baubles over the years.

  17. My two weirdest tree adventures:
    1) Kids grown and gone, said they had other plans for Christmas, we didn’t set up a tree. Daughter #2 does come home with boyfriend, we go on Christmas Eve to get a tree and they are all $25 no matter what, so we get a 12 foot tree (very dry), bring it home, boyfriend gets it in the house, we rejoice in our bargain, decorate and have a great time. Vacation over, now daughter and boyfriend go back to school — I realize I have to get that enormous, needle-shedding tree un-decorated and out of the house by myself!
    2) Same situation as above. Daughter #1 calls and says she is coming home after all and wants me to get a tree. I get one, leave it outside in yard until we have time to trim the trunk. Daughter #1 calls back, change of plans, we are all going to Daughter #2’s house (10 hours west) instead. No way are we taking the tree with us, she will get one in her town. Return home after Christmas, haul tree (still in its net) straight out to the street to be re-cycled.

    Good times.

      1. That was when we lived in the suburbs — now I live in a much smaller house, in the middle of a pine forest. So I never feel the urge to bring a tree inside! It does save on sweeping at least. 🙂

  18. I loved this post Anne, lol. I think I’m a combo of several, hopefully not the super-annoying kind 😀

    I had no idea you did trees, I think I would enjoy that. My farm doesn’t have a single evergreen tree on it. And I do not exaggerate.

    Wondering Anne, is there a UK version of a farmstead cookbook that follows farm life through an entire year?

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