American Choppers

Do it the old-fashioned way at Eckert's Belleville Tree Farm

Dec 15, 2004 at 4:00 am
What do we really know about the origin of the Christmas tree? Is it a vestige of Europe's pagan past? A descendent of the "paradise tree" popularized in medieval passion plays? There are no definitive answers.

But at Christmas, definitive answers are unnecessary. This is a time of hope and faith, as all of the better television specials assure us. You don't need to know where the tree comes from; you just need to believe. But if you are a doubter, and you absolutely must know the origin before you place that tree opposite your mother's antique credenza, you have no recourse except to cut your own.

Ah, but cutting your own tree is not easy, friend. First, forget about that ax, Eugene. For a pine/fir tree, you need a saw. And not your good breakfast saw; this bastard's gonna get all sappy. Also, healthy trees are tough, so consider doing a few minutes of stretching to get the blood flowing before sawing, or you risk a strained something-or-other. Twenty minutes of furious sawing later, the brutality is not yet over. You have to shake that bad boy down, hoss. Hold firmly near the top of the tree, then thump it soundly on the ground; repeat until loose needles no longer fall from the tree, or until you stamp your own foot.

Now: How best to get the tree home? The bus is out of the question, and mounting a tree on the hood of the car is tricky. Wrap the tree in something (a moving blanket, or the wife's wedding dress) to keep the limbs under control. This also works on the kids, who should be amped up like squirrels on sugarplums by this time. Cram both children and tree into the car, and then swear that next year, you'll go with the artificial. Although, in truth, by this time you'll have sworn plenty.