Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas by John McConachie (#2)

The first historical record of the evergreen tree being used as a component of the Christmas celebration comes to us from the diary of a resident of the City of Strasbourg France when he wrote in 1605 “ At Christmas they set up fir trees in the parlours of Strasbourg and they hanged thereon, roses made of coloured paper, apples , wafers, gold foil, sweets etc.”

In 1840 the tradition crossed the English Channel when Prince Albert of the German Principality of Saxe- Cobourg-Gotha became the Husband of Queen Victoria and on his first Christmas in England he imported three huge trees from his homeland to decorate Buckingham Palace.

While we have no specific record of the first use of the tree in North America we can assume that with the great influx of immigrants to this country in the mid 1800’s the tradition was not long in being established on this side of the Atlantic and I am glad they did . A fully-decorated tree and the smell of the needles is as integral to the season as turkey and mince pie.

My first significant involvement
came in 1947 when I was six and my Dad figured I was old enough to accompany him after supper to Charles Florists on Devonshire Road in Greenfield park Quebec about a quarter-mile from our house to select our tree for that year. After a very thorough inspection of a number of trees we finally agreed on just the right one for our house at a cost of fifty cents and we loaded it onto my toboggan. I felt pretty excited that night and many years later I was to experience that same feeling when I had the pleasure of taking my own two sons out for a tree for the first time.

The next milestone came in 1962 when I was attending University and a friend and I decided to sell Christmas trees to give us the extra wherewithal for our Christmas shopping . With a free lot on Churchill Blvd. the main Drag,free electricity for our lights from Len Holden the barber and 200 trees at a cost of 35 cents each , delivered , we went into business.

By 5:00pm on Christmas Eve we shut down with 12 trees unsold and $180.00 each in our jeans. Needless to say I continued to sell trees for the next two Christmases. By 1962 the cost of a good-sized tree had risen to between $2.00- $3.00. Since then my relationship with the Tannenbaum has run the gamut from Scotch Pine to Spruce to Balsam Fir , from cut your own on some country sideroad , to cut your own tree farms to pre-cuts at various lots around the city .
Over the years I have been accused of getting a tree that is too big for our living room. My retort has been (a) it looked smaller in the lot (b) all the more room for gifts underneath. As for decorations, not ours the colour coordinated beauties you see in the department store windows but rather an eclectic potpourri of glass balls that were on our tree when I was a kid some fifty plus years ago, some paper chains that our sons made in the first grade augmented by some very new retro glass balls which I make a point of searching out in the Christmas Store each year.

Yes me and the Christmas tree have had a very close relationship for many many years and god willing it will continue for many more years to come because of the memories engendered by both the sight and the smell of the freshly cut evergreen in the corner of the room. Memories of finding exactly what you asked for in your letter to Santa, and later the memories of your own children experiencing that selfsame feeling, memories of parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and brothers and sisters and friends who are no longer with us.

Memories of anticipation, expectation and yes disappointment, but much more the memories of joy and happiness and love . Yes I could no doubt activate those memories without the tree but they seem more vital more real and yes more treasured because of the sensual stimulus of the tree. I hope you enjoy this volume two of our audio Christmas card and from our house to yours Merry Christmas ,Merry Christmas , Merry Christmas

Thanks John McConachie

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