When Norm said that cutting down a tree at a tree farm was "cheating", I laughed out loud. That's quite awesome, actually. But I would bet that for most people, sawing one down oneself is as rustic as one gets.
My parents have been going to the same tree farm in Youngsville, New York since the year before they were married, 1970. That's a long time! They didn't go this year; they bought one from a parking lot. It made them sad, a little bit, I think. But at least it's real!
The past few Christmases I hadn't been able to go up with them. It's a long drive from their house, and their house is a two-hour drive from mine, and it's hard to get schedules lined up. But I'm going to talk about what we USED to do because it's fun and awesome.
We always got a blue spruce. I started crying one year because my parents wanted to get a GREEN tree and I was appalled and so they relented. There was always snow on the ground there, and there was never snow on the ground at my house by then. We would drive up in the morning, and eat breakfast at the same place. One year we brought my boyfriend-at-the-time, Oliver. That was the year that it was REALLY snowy up there, snowing as we drove. We were coming down a hill and some guy was coming down the opposite hill and he fishtailed a little and my dad PANICKED and jerked the wheel and we went off the road and I was in the back seat with just the lap belt on and we were heading towards a house but hit a storm drain instead. That's the only car crash I've ever been in! We called Triple A and they came and towed us and we got a new tire and then we continuted on to the tree farm. I think Oliver was apalled, but dude, we were already UP there! May as well continue! The rest of the day turned out wonderfully. I even own somewhere a picture of Oliver and I playing in the snow, which is sort of awesome, because there exist very few photographs of myself and Boys of Interest. I just don't take them. Also Oliver and I fought all the time (because I like to fight all the time because I am an evil worthless person, sorry Oliver!) so I think it was swell for that reason too.
At the tree farm, at the window where you get your map, and see the prices for the various trees (blue spruces are SO EXPENSIVE), and borrow a saw if you need one, your dad tells the woman that you've been coming here since 1970.
There's a little shack at the tree farm, with a college-aged girl in it tending the hot chocolate. This is the shack you go to after you've chosen your tree (which takes a LONG time of back-and-forthing, and debating (especially involving How Tall This Tree Will Actually Be Once We Get It In The House) and temporarily marking trees with your hat, and snowball fights, and sawing with your belly in the snow), and your dad is in line to have it tied up. The hot chocolate is made on a real wood stove powered by real wood, and it's made with milk, of course. You have to hold the hot chocolate for like eight billion years in your hands until it's cool enough to sip. While you wait in the really really warm little shack, you read the article they have posted there, about the family who kept their Christmas tree (purchased at this very tree farm) until EASTER, and there are the photos, the thing's decorated with construction-paper hearts on Valentine's day, construction-paper shamrocks on St. Patrick's Day, construction-paper eggs and bunnies on Easter. And damn if that thing wasn't still really, really green on Easter. Also there are photos of the farm when it just started, rows and rows of teeny tiny trees.
Maybe before you go into the shack, you grab your sleds from the car and slide down the hill, at the bottom of which lies the hot chocolate. It's great to be able to sled, when back home, there isn't any snow yet and probably won't be any for a month and a half.
Then they put the tree through the thing -- but they didn't use nets like the firemen do. They yank it through the tree funnel, and tie it with twine every 18 inches or so. And then the plop it on your roof, and the air leaks through the door seals, and the whole way home everyone makes smarmy comments about how the tree is about to fly off the car and kill the people in the car behind you. But it never does.
Then you get the tree home and put it in the backyard. And no matter how early you get your tree, it doesn't get in the house until less than a week before Christmas, and you're damn lucky if it's decorated before Christmas Eve.
This year, as aforementioned, they got their tree somewhere around town. It's not a blue spruce, it's a Douglas Fir. It doesn't completely take over the living room, it leaves room to walk. Some years we would put our tree in the vestibule, and I would make a sign that said "go around to the side door", with a drawing of a tree and presents, and we would have to go outside and around to retrieve our mail. For a few seasons we put up a train, a genuine awesome Lionel one. That tradition died eventually, too much work and too little space, I guess. We decorate our tree with colored lights. And ornaments that don't match. The only glass ornaments we have on our tree are antique ones which belonged to my grandmother. All the other ornaments are ones with represent a vacation we took, or a gift from someone, or one that my mom made when she used to make an ornament every year. I love it, I love how every ornament is awesome and every one has some sort of story. We don't use tinsel, and we don't use garland. That sort of thing varies from year to year, though. A few years ago my mom got a batch of tin icicles, which is where the term "tinsel" comes from. These were apprently a staple of the Victorian Christmas, at least according to the tin cylinder they're stored in, sealed by a big fat cork. They are little strips of tin twirled around, with a hook shaped into one end. They go all over the tree and hang so straight and catch the light and it's gorgeous. We have eight million more ornaments than fit on the tree. Christmas Eve evening this year my mom put the lights on and then my brother brought The Box up from the basement and I looked at the tree and sighed to myself "I have to do this twice?" but then I put a few ornaments on and just kept going. I did almost the whole tree myself. My own tree at home isn't decorated yet, just lighted, and now I'm dreading opening up the ornament boxes because I can't remember what my ornament situation is like and I have a feeling I have mostly balls and few interesting ornaments, and that will make me sad. Also I can't decorate the lower two feet or so of the tree because Henry knocks the balls to the ground and bats them around the house and eventually down the stairs and there's linoleoum in front of the door and he swats it around and it makes SO much noize and I want to kill him and that's not very in tune with the Christmas spirit, to want to kill your cat.
We have an angel that we put on the tree most years. She's beautiful and strawberry-blonde and happens to look remarkably like Erica, the daughter of a friends-of-the-family who is one year older than I. I like angels better than stars, though I do like stars a whole lot, too. At my house I just have a tacky light-up star, so I may make an angel this year. Freshman year of college I bought one of those tiny trees that come in a pot, only about one and a half feet tall, and I made an angel out of construction paper. I spotted the body of the thing in my bedroom at my parents' house (the head was molded around a Dum-Dum sucker, and has fallen out at some point and gotten lost) and I considered bringing it home but I didn't. I'll make a new one.