The Perfect Christmas Tree For You

Dec 18

XmasTreeIf you fell for the title, you’ve come to the wrong place. You want the Martha Stewart Christmas web site.

But wait! Don’t leave, because, through the haphazard magic of the Internet, you’ve stumbled on a way to gain wisdom, peace of mind, and, possibly, a mild hangover.

Yes, Virginia, there is a perfect Christmas tree. And yet, there isn’t.

That is to say, any tree that you love is perfect. No matter how imperfect it is.

Lessons From Spaghetti

Growing up in an Italian-American family, I learned the perfect-for-you lesson at an early age from the various ways my mother, aunts, and grandmothers made tomato sauce. Every one of them (the sauces, not the relatives) were basically the same, but were subtly, or not so subtly, different.

The sauces all contained tomato, fresh or canned, olive oil (and “extra virgin” had a different meaning in those days; it was plain old olive oil), garlic, basil, salt and pepper, sometimes onions. But the amounts of the ingredients and the methods of cooking were slightly different, and everyone loved (or pretended to love) their own mother’s sauce above all others.

Let’s not even talk about the meatballs.


. . . In their own way. In my parent’s house, we always had a big tree, 8 feet or more (size does count), which was small compared to my grandfather’s tree, at least 10 feet, which, although it didn’t grow in Brooklyn, was put up there, complete with tons of tinsels and beautiful old ornaments, a few of which were allegedly brought over from the Old Country.

I inherited some of these antique ornaments, and still use the survivors today: they are so delicate that they sometimes crumble when you look at them wrong. And no, while I wrap them carefully in tissue to store them each year, I don’t save them in some vault so that my ancesters can bring them to Antiques Road Show in a century or two. Don’t see the point in that, do you?

Anyway, these days, living in an apartment, our tree is smaller. And as for decorations: it’s rather, well, eclectic. It also looks a bit off kilter in this photo, but that’s part of its charm. And the reindeer (or are they moose?) appear to have been  been hitting the eggnog a little hard, which, I must point out, is an important ingredient in the Christmas tree decorating process.


I still have some of those ornaments from the 20s, 30s, 40s 50s_Ornamentand 50s (at left), but many more from recent times—some expensive (like the whimsical mermaid) most not, including the tine multi-colored balls I couldn’t ressist at CVS at 12 for $5.95 last week. There are also handmade decorations from my mother, now 99, who used to crochet up a storm of Santas, stocking, stars, and even a grandfather’s clock complete with removable mouse. I remember where and when I got everything on the tree: every ornament, bow, or candy cane has a story.

But no tinsel. . .


I don’t know when tinsel when out of style, but it will surely make a comeback, possibly around the same time as big colored light bulbs. Maybe even the kind that flash on and off.


For many years now, we’re been using those elegant small white lights and we think that’s the only way to go. Of course, there’s the age-old great ecumenical question of how to string the lights: around and around the tree, or in vertical lines from the top. I vote for going round, my husband for top to bottom. This year, I prevailed. Next year, who knows?

To me, the perfect Christmas tree is shaped like a triangle, really full at the bottom. But some people, I was shocked to learn, like a tall, thin tree. In fact, the nice couple who sold us our tree this year on the corner of 23rd and Second, referred to the cone-shaped tree as the “classic” one. Harrumph. Not to mine eyes.


I’ve seen trees that are decorated all in blue, all white, or with one style of ornaments. With angels on the top, or stars, or big red bows. Personally, I like my angel, which I think of as a kind of mini-me although she has very blue eyes (mine are brown) and resembles me not a whit in demeanor. The mini me I’d like to be? Well, why not. Christmas is not about reality, even when you’re grownup and don’t go to bed listening for reindeer.

The best tree in my life was in my childhood, though. My parents had just made a playroom, AKA, a “finished basement,” a big part of life in suburbia back then, and allowed my brother and me to have our very own tree down there. We decorated it with paper lanterns and chains, popcorn, candy canes, tons of tinsel and who knows what else, and thought it was the most perfect Christmas tree in the whole world.

And it was.

AngelThe thing is: You can’t fail Christmas Tree. 
You can even call it a Chanukah Bush if that makes your mother happy.
And always remember, Only Allah is perfect. 
Even on Christmas.


That is, be an angel 
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