Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree has always confused me a little. I don’t know if it was a symptom of being in a regimented, military family or just the fact that over half of us were decidedlyType A personalities, but there was no way our family tree ever would have resembled the “sad little tree” from the movie. Christmas was always a happy, much-anticipated holiday, but there were Certain Unbreakable Rules for the tree that somehow were just understood. It might or might not be the case that if any of these rules had been broken, Santa would somehow miss our house for the year.
My kindred Type A brethren might recognize some of these Tree Do’s and Don’ts (can I get an Amen up in here?):
- The tree can be real or artificial, cut or live, but it must be green. Pink, white, or other rainbow-hued Christmas trees do not occur in nature; thus, they will not occur in the house.
- No matter what tools, props, or physical contortions are necessary, the tree must be straight. Plumb lines can be dropped from the top of the ladder if necessary. You can turn the “bad side” towards the wall, but from top to bottom, no tilting allowed.
- Lights must be evenly spaced and working. Steady or twinkling–either is ok–but dark spaces or blank spots practically negate Christmas altogether.
- This should go without saying (*smh*), but a tree should be a tree, not a string of ropes on a wall, not a triangular stack of 7-UP bottles, or any other non-tree, Pinterest-inspired creation. And for goodness sake, it should not be hung upside-down from the ceiling! How can you lie underneath the branches on Christmas Eve dreaming of presents when you’re looking at the pointy top instead of the broad underside of the tree? Answer: You cannot.
- If you MUST use tinsel (or icicles), and I am strongly against it, it cannot be clumped and thrown on in bunches. Even if it takes two entire tedious days, tinsel must be placed strand-by-strand on the branches, to give the effect of shimmering snow. If you have animals prone to eating this surgery-inducing stuff or a vacuum cleaner that recoils and refuses to work at the sight of it, be sensible and banish it forever from your Christmas tradition.
- A word about garland. Shiny metallic garland is tinsel’s country cousin. No. Just no. If you must string something, go old-fashioned and make some popcorn strings or cranberries (but not if you have hungry pets). Or go with felt balls, wooden beads, or possibly wide, wired ribbon. It’s just extra work because the swags must be even and spaced correctly from top to bottom or it’ll look like a badly wrapped gift.
- Ornaments can be lots of things–handmade, glass-blown, kid crafts, or whatever, but they, too, must be spaced evenly around the tree so that it’s balanced. Noticing a spacing theme yet? If you let your children decorate it, everything will be hung on the bottom third of the tree, within their reach only. If you have very small children or persistent cats or puppies that want to eat everything, you’ll tend to decorate only the top third of the tree. Just like middle children, the middle third of the tree cannot be neglected because the rest demands attention! Balance. As with the lights, no big empty spaces and no bunches or clumps.
- Colors must mix. Don’t put all the red balls together in one spot. They’ve been stored in boxes all year and this is the one time they get to come out and mingle with others. Be sensitive to their feelings.
- What goes on top? So many options—angel, bow, star, weird vintage spire–any of these work. Whichever you choose must be proportional to your tree, and the top branch has to be sturdy enough to–wait for it–remain straight (see #2). Don’t tie a tiny red bow on a 9 foot tree. Don’t put a huge, hulking angel on a little 3-foot table topper.
- Timing. For the true Type A person, Christmas trees cannot be seen before Thanksgiving. Even if they’re banging away on the attic door like someone’s crazy locked-away aunt, begging to be let out, do not give in. It’s an abomination. Conversely, they must be down and re-stowed before the New Year. Lights left on the outside of the house after this point mark you as lazy and oblivious.
If you want to be all like “Oh, family is more important than doing it right” and “Christmas should be fun and free-spirited,” then be my guest. Go ahead: wake up Christmas morning to your haphazard, crazy pink tree and go through the motions, but we’ll all know it won’t really be Christmas at your house. Me, I’ll be basking in the balance and greenery, carefully un-taping the paper on the presents and saving the bows for next year.