Today I want to show you how we prune our Christmas tree, place lights a better way, hang ornaments to cover gaps, and make ornaments to commemorate life events.
Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree
As you probably know, English is not my native tongue. If we ever had a conversation, you would think I speak quite well. You might even find my slight British accent pretty cute. But if we carried on conversing for a while, then you would surely start getting confused, as I happen to scatter those British words which are not commonly used in American English. You know…the ones like “boot” (meaning trunk), “hoovering the floors” (meaning vacuuming the floors), or “fortnight” (meaning 2 weeks).
I wish that was all…you see, while I have no communication issues in my daily life, my vocabulary is still a little bit limited. And with that, my friend, you would agree with Greg that I have great potential for creating our funniest memories every time I open my mouth…or my ears! LOL. 😉
Ok, so you may be wondering what this has to do with decorating a sentimental Christmas tree? Well, here comes the story of it…
It was our very first Christmas in America, and we wanted to have a real Christmas tree. As it happened, we were a little late to buy it (mid-December), so by the time we shopped for a tree, there were only oddly-shaped ones left. But as it was going to be my first real Christmas tree ever, the odd shapes and sizes didn’t matter. I was just so ecstatic about it! I was so excited that I almost hugged the delivery guy when I saw him dropping off our tree the very same day! LOL.
With all that excitement, of course we set it up right away, and I got on with decorating. Oh, I can’t tell you how great it felt to decorate my very first real Christmas tree! Despite it’s odd shape, it looked perfect to me!
Later that evening, Mom & Dad came to see us. While Dad was talking to Greg about how to secure the tree properly, Mom was complimenting our tree: “Oh what a perfectly-trimmed tree! It looks great, Handan!!”
And those words of hers started it all!…hahahaha 🙂
Right after they left, I ran to the shed, grabbed my pruning shears and got to work. A little later, seeing what I was doing to our tree, Greg’s eyes almost popped-out:
G: What the hell are you doing to that tree, woman?!?
H: (humming Christmas carols with a big smile on my face) Nothing…I am just trimming the tree. Didn’t you hear what Mom said?
G: (can’t make sense of what he is seeing and hearing) No!! What did she say???
H: (still humming Christmas carols with a big smile) She said “Oh, what a perfectly-trimmed tree!” I actually didn’t trim it at all when she saw it. But I think that is what you’re supposed to do with the real trees….trim them off a bit…otherwise why would she think I trimmed it, right?
G: (laughing on the floor with tears in his eyes) ………
H: (trying to keep cool and hoping for the best) What is so funny, you silly?….Does it look bad?….Am I trimming it weird??
He was laughing so hard that he couldn’t even breath, let alone speak. Two minutes later, he took a deep breath and said:
G: She didn’t mean to prune the tree!….bbbwhhaahhaahaha…..(lost him to laughter craze again)
And with that, pruning the Christmas tree became our little tradition! 😀
But before getting into the details of pruning, let me share with you our second tradition along with some of our Christmas tree decoration tips.
Sentimental ornaments: telling your life story with your Christmas tree decoration
I must say, Mom (Greg’s mom) is great at starting traditions! 😉 When Greg and Margo (Greg’s sister) were kids, Mom started to buy or make themed ornaments for them each Christmas which commemorated the major events in their lives that year. She would also write a clever caption and the year on those ornaments.
She would then gift Greg and Margo with those ornaments on Christmas eve for them to hang on the tree. When grandchildren arrived, Mom continued this tradition with them.
I learned about Mom’s Christmas tradition when Barish received his first sentimental ornament, and ever since, it has become our Christmas tradition too. Every year, I buy or make Christmas ornaments for Barish, Greg, Penny & Pepper (our dogs) and for myself to commemorate our major events in that year.
Here are some of our ornaments from previous years.
As for this year, I already bought the ornaments for the boys and our girls (Penny & Pepper). The chair in the picture below is Greg’s, and it represents his new office chair. I already wrote the note and the year on it: “the royal chair for the royal butt!” hahahaha 😀
And the brass lawn mover is for Barish, as he just this year learned to mow the lawn.
Although Greg actually commemorated this event with his usual facebook posts, I thought our boy really well deserved this brass lawn mower ornament.
Now that you saw some of our ornaments, let me take you through the process of our tree decoration and how to get your real Christmas tree look like the ones in a magazine. 😉
How to decorate a real Christmas tree
The first step is setting up the tree. As we usually go for a tree at least 9 feet tall, we use Mom & Dad’s old tree stand, because it is the heaviest and strongest one that we could possibly find. Right after we put the tree into the stand, we also secure it with wires that we attach to our baseboard. It is so the tree never falls which is a scary situation – oh yes! we went through it once with our very first tree and don’t want to go through that again. Luckily no body was hurt and no ornaments were broken! [Actually, it fell twice, and yes, ornaments were broken. I just hid them from you. -Greg]
Then we water our tree and let it be for a day or two. I call this “tree’s relaxing time!” Not that our tree sits and enjoys a Christmas movie with us, but this relaxing time helps it to adjust to it’s new environment so it can start dropping it’s branches to a normal position.
When the tree’s relaxing time is over, I start with the lights. Now here is my first hint for you – although many people and professional websites will tell you that you need to wrap the lights to the branches as shown in the picture below, I never bother myself with that for two obvious reasons:
- Trying to wrap your lights around the branches causes more needles to drop, therefore the tree looks pretty naked in the end.
- Taking those lights out after Christmas becomes a pain the back.
Instead, I place the lights in a spiral manner as shown in the picture below. I start from the very bottom row of branches, and I work my way up. With every row of branches I wrap the lights first around the trunk. Then I make another round by placing them towards the middle, then the final round by placing them towards the end of the branches. Once I finish my work with the first row, I move to the next row above. This way when I take the tree down after Christmas I almost spend no time getting the lights out of it. I simply grab a pair of loppers and start cutting the branches row by row, and as each ow of branches falls on the floor, my lights become free for me to coil them back to their spool. 😉
Here is another hint for you: I always have my lights plugged in when I am placing them on the tree. This helps me seeing any broken strand of lights before I happen to place them on the tree.
Once I reach the top of the tree, I wrap whatever lights I have left around the top stem where our angel (tree topper) would be placed. While I’m at it, I also place our angel, then start decorating the tree with ornaments.
As we always use a real tree, our trees never have the perfect shape that faux trees have. But let me tell you: it is pretty easy to give your real tree the perfect shape! Let me show you how.
Before hanging anything on the tree, I first step back a bit and determine the gaps our tree has.
Once I know the empty areas, I grab my lightweight-but-big ornaments and start hanging them into those gaps. But when I don’t have enough big lightweight ornaments, then I grab some of the heavier ornaments and hang them in a way to fill those empty areas. As the heavy ornaments will bring the upper branches closer the bottom ones, our tree ends up with evenly spread branches.
The green lines in the picture below is to show you the change in the angle of that specific branch after I hung a heavy ornament.
After I finish filling the big empty spaces, I start putting our garland which is a simple red flannel ribbon I bought from Joann Fabrics 3 years ago.
When I finish placing the garland, I get back to hanging the rest of ornaments: heavier ones usually go toward the top branches as they tend to be stronger, and lighter ones anywhere else on the tree, including the inner parts. I also try to fill the tree as evenly as possible. One thing I refrain from is hanging anything at the edge of the branches.
Once I hang most of our ornaments, the tree looks pretty much like it does in the picture below – not very attractive is it? Don’t worry, I won’t get offended, as this is nothing like how it looks in the end. 😉 Now, do you see all the branches sticking out from the sides in a weird way? Well… only after I start pruning them does our tree start looking pretty!
As the final step, I grab my small pruning shears and start pruning our Christmas tree. Since I am not Edward Scissorhands, I always start taking off small pieces one at a time, so I don’t mistakenly cut more than I should. And if any of the ornaments needs to be moved to a different branch, I also do that during pruning.
The picture below was taken halfway through this process, and you can see how much I had pruned. It already looks much better!
When I feel like the tree has a better shape, I stop pruning and start cleaning the needles off the floor. Next, I place the tree’s skirt, then tuck the nicely-wrapped presents under the tree…
….annnndddd TA DA!
Now that looks like a nicely-trimmed Christmas tree, doesn’t it? 😀 All the gaps are filled as much as possible and the branches spread out more evenly!
I’ll admit that it is definitely not like a designer tree, as our ornaments are pretty simple, so we tend keep the decoration also simple. But what we love about our Christmas tree is that it speaks to us – loud and proud, as it tells the fun and sweet memories of our lifetime. And I don’t think any designer tree could ever beat that! 😉
I hope you enjoyed our traditions and our Christmas tree decoration. Do you have any Christmas traditions that you’d like to share with us? You know I would love to hear all about it!