Like many pagan households, we enjoy having a “Christmas tree” in the house during the winter holidays. Calling evergreens “Christmas trees” is a bit of a misnomer, as the history of bringing greenery into the house around the Winter Solstice predates Christmas by many years. It can be traced all the way back to pagan times in the Egyptian and Roman empires. Our modern concept of holiday trees started as a German tradition from around 1600.
When we lived in Boston, we bought a tree every year. Sometimes from a random parking lot of pre-cut trees, sometimes from cut-your-own lot in the suburbs. Either way, we spent a lot of money to watch a tree disintegrate in our living room.
Moving to Salem presented a new opportunity. Our house came with several pine trees in the back yard. Very large pine trees with low-hanging branches. So, we decided to save some money, not kill a tree, and still have the fresh pine experience: we started cutting branches and bunching them together to make a vaguely tree-like object to decorate. I also like that just using branches, not a whole tree is more environmentally friendly and it takes up less floor space if you position the branches right.
Some years, as you can see by the photos, have been more successful than others. Sometimes the branches have quite a bit of curve to them and are hard to position. As we run out of low branches, this problem intensifies. Maybe next year I won’t be able to cut branches that fit and we will have to find a different solution, but for now our lopsided Solstice branch suits us just fine.
I want to show off some of the decorations we have, because the sparkly bits are what turns a branch into a Solstice branch! We have had to cut back on how many decorations we use because the surface area is smaller, so everything on the tree has special significance. Several of our ornaments are new this year. We held a holiday brunch in early December and asked that, if people wanted to bring something, to bring an ornament rather than food to share (because I was cooking a lot).