For most of the years we lived in North Dakota, we had a cut Christmas Tree purchased at a nursery in Grand Forks. During that time period, our favorites were the lush Frazer Firs with their perfect shapes and their ability to stay Green longer.
In those times, we had a myriad of Ornaments, adding new ones every year. The Christmas Tree was 6-7 feet tall, as tall as would reasonably fit under our 8 foot ceiling with a Fancy Schmancy Angel on Top.
Something happened in the mid to late 90's, as our practice began to change. We began to see Christmas as a Material Celebration in our Culture and we found that distasteful.
As we began to change, most of the Ornaments lost their luster. Our obsession to buy new Ornaments every year faded. Those Materialistic Ornaments took on less and less meaning than the old Ornaments which had Story. Seeing Country of Origin and knowing those Country's Records of Human Rights and Environmental Violations left a distaste that would not go away.
We packed up most of our Ornaments and took them to the Thrift Store for others to enjoy. Some were pretty spendy. We kept those that were intimately bound into our Family Story and History. They were the ones that gave us the most heartfelt smiles.
While the Ornaments were taking on a different meaning, so too were the Trees. We found it reprehensible to kill a Living Tree just to put in our living room from Thanksgiving Weekend until December 26th.
For 2 years, we went to the Rydell National Wildlife Refuge where Christmas Trees were offered for a nominal price and as a means of service toward returning the Land to Natural Habitat. The whole process was like an old fashioned Christmas Tree cutting. The People there (ourselves included) were in family groupings. Along with saws and axes, they brought broad smiles and gentle laughter. The Cider offered in the Visitors' Center and the experience of Winter in Nature made the whole day a very special one to remember.
A funny thing happened while we were there. We couldn't bring ourselves to cut a Tree, so would take a Sturdy Branch instead. As the years went on, we began to cut a small Branch or two from our Blue Spruce in the front yard. We could just imagine that our Tree out front would like that.
This is our second Christmas in our new home on the Farm in Missouri. Our tradition of keeping Christmas simpler is firmly in place.
This year, we headed out into the beautiful White Pines that Brett and Wendy, the previous owners, had planted. We picked out 2 Branches and thanked the Trees for their gifts for our Christmas. Richard tied the Branches together and placed them in a bucket full of rocks and water.
Our "Christmas Tree" or rather "Christmas Branch" at 3 feet tall is small, spindly, and imperfect. It is imperfect like we are. The Ornaments are limited to those few which tell the Story of who we are. For most of the year, they nestle snuggly into a container a little bigger than a Shoe Box.
Our Humble Christmas Branch and lovely Ornaments suit us to a "T". The whole process takes far less money ($0) and far less time than that big, growing tub of Ornaments we used to use. Plus, we are doing far less damage to the Earth.
Living lightly on the Earth is about changing simple daily practices which are more in line with our values and lessen our footprint upon this Earth. It's what we hope to do in simple steps along the path.