Where Christmas Trees Go To Die

When Todd and I get our tree he brings a saw from his amazing workshop.  We wander through row after row of evergreen trees until we select just the right one.  He whips out the saw, and in an ultimate display of manliness he slices through the trunk and then he drags it back to our truck so we can bring it home and decorate it.  Then a few weeks later we take all the ornaments off and then the tree has served its purpose.

When I was a kid it was different.

My dad didn’t simply cut a tree.  He dug it out, roots and all.  He had this wooden box he made, and he’d put the tree into the wooden box and somehow get it into the station wagon.  I say “somehow” because when I was a kid I never realized how heavy a tree is with its roots.  When Todd and I bought our first house I wanted to dig out a tree.  I found a place that already had them dug out.  We tried to lift the bin in and it was too damn heavy.  It didn’t budge.  My dad is a badass.

The reason why my parents insisted on digging out trees is because after our Christmas tree served its purpose, they’d plant it outside in the yard.  In the far left back corner of the yard was a tall blue spruce, which was my brother Walter’s first Christmas tree back in the mid ‘60s.  There was another tree in the other back corner, it was one I remember planting when I was very small. 

The downside to planting our Christmas trees after use was that by the time Christmas was over, the ground outside was frozen.  We had to wait til the spring thaw to be able to plant it.  That means we had to keep the tree inside, undecorated, until April or so.  Yup, we were that weird Polish family that kept the tree alive for four months after the holiday was over. 

Sure, it was weird.  But thinking back on it, it was a lovely tradition.  I love that for years Walter’s first Christmas tree was still standing.  I am not sure it’s still there or not, as I haven’t driven by the old house in a long time. 

Our friend Mike used to do something different with his trees.  He'd say "bring your old tree to my house" to all his friends.  He'd amass a dozen or so Christmas trees.  He'd leave them out behind his house and let them dry out.  Then in the summer he'd burn them in a bonfire at a party.  Inevitably he'd be drunk enough where he'd set one on fire and hop around the hard with it between his legs like a hobby horse.  I think the goal was to lap around the yard before his ass got scorched.

Todd and I cut our tree every year, then at the end of Christmas we have to get it out of the house somehow.  In our old place, which was a bit more populated than where we live now, we simply hauled it to the curb and the city came with a garbage truck and took it away.  It made me a little sad to have it happen that way, almost like our memories of another Christmas were going into a garbage truck. 

Now that we live out in the woods, we decided that our tree should go back to nature once we have consumed it.  Today I dragged out this year’s tree to the woods behind our house.  I placed it next to the rotting corpse of last year’s tree.  And that one is beside the corpse of the year before that.

Thank you for your service, little tree.  Now you get to nourish other trees.  

old christmas trees

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

added on 01.11.16

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