An article about the first Christmas tree I ever bought which inspired me to continue celebrating this season with first my wife then daughter.
My first Christmas tree is something I will never forget however it is not the one that was in my house when I was growing up that I am referring to but the first one I ever went out and purchased some 12 years ago. The year was 1995 and the day was a Friday as well as the first day of the month of December when I found myself sitting at home watching CNN at an hour of the mid afternoon when for no apparent reason other then being a compulsive shopper and having a bite of spare cash I decided to buy a Christmas tree. Perhaps it was also the desire to have something Christmassy in the apartment my then girlfriend (current day wife) and I had moved in to less then 3 months before which more and more was starting to feel like home.
I might also add, with regards to myself at the time apart from being about to run out of my twenties I had gone about 14 years without really enjoying Christmas as this day no longer brought out in me the same enthusiasm which had been so abundant in my younger years. What it was that was missing my conscious was not aware of but what I felt was a certain emptiness on this day though I could see the opposite all around me in shape of everything that this holiday season had to offer. It was as if the decorated store windows, Christmas songs and all that lead up to the day itself went by me without arousing in me the slightest emotion that went beyond any other day of the year.
Despite all I can not claim that the cause of my apathy was because I had grown any aversions to Christmas but the trappings no longer fascinated me for my age was one that had witnessed them coming and going to the point where I knew not what to look forward to on this day. As for the presents, they were perhaps still interesting but I was no longer an infant who could count on them even if his financial situation did not allow to give them and the situation was not one that I expected to see any Ferraris or even Giorgio Armani suits under the tree.
All the same it was with my mind set on getting a Christmas tree that I left my apartment in downtown Warsaw and headed for the nearest mini mall where I was certain trees for the holiday were being sold. Naturally with the mini mall being less then half a kilometer away it did not take me long to reach it and there it was in front of the mall that I saw a man standing on the street selling artificial Christmas trees which seemed like a bargain. This man I will never forget had trees in 3 heights and prices. The first standing at 130 cm for 100 PLN (Polish New Zloty), the second at 150 cm for 125 PLN and the third one at 170 cm for 150 PLN. I seeing what this man had to offer inclined to take the largest tree but did not do so thinking that their might lurk a better offer somewhere in the mall so it was with this idea that I went inside the place where Mrs. Margaret Thatcher while being Prime Minister did some shopping of her own during Poland’s communist era.
This place which I am referring to is officially known in Poland as “Hala Mirowska” and it was there where I saw trees which in truth were slightly nicer as they were fuller as well as being some centimeters taller but however came at prices that ranged from 450 PLN to 900 PLN. The USD being at an exchange rate of 3 PLN to the Dollar makes it easy to see why I opted to retrace my steps to the man with the more reasonably priced trees. It was not really that I could not afford to get one of the more expensive trees but it just did not seem to make any sense to spend several times more for what would have amounted to more or less the same. Needless to say I got a tree from the first man, selecting to take the one that stood at 170 cm home in a taxi.
Once I had the tree home I needed to find a place where I could store it till the time was right to put it up after all it was the first of December and if my memory served me well trees were not usually put up till at least the 16th of the month. Of course there was the example of my sister who decorated hers on the 8th of the month which seemed like the concept I would follow and would have, had I actually found a place to the store the tree as the closet space was taken up by something or other. What would I do? Where would I put away the tree? Were the questions that my mind could not solve but then it came to me as I said to myself in the same way Scarlet O’Hara did in “Gone With The Wind” ,“I can’t think about that now. I’ll think about it tomorrow!” (well in my case after Christmas) so it was under the guidance of this theory that I put up my Christmas tree on the first of December with a slight worry that it might be a tad too soon.
Once I had the tree up I noticed that something was conspicuous because of its absence and that being decorations and perhaps lights so it was with the goal of completing the task I had already embarked on that I left home once more. Again it was “Hala Mirowska” that I set out for the accessories I had left out that would make this a tree truly a Christmas one. All that I saw was grand and shop I did to the point of being about to drop as I got all the items that my youth had always associated with Christmas. A reef, lights for the tree, bulbs in all season colors and in several sizes, CDs of Christmas songs and carols, and other decorations for the tree were what my second outing saw me purchase that day.
It was with childlike enthusiasm that I got home with all my treasures and started to adorn the tree with all the ornaments that Christmas stipulated while listening to those classics that brought back so many an idea from the past. Songs like “The Christmas Song”, “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” and “Jingle Bells” (a song that has nothing to do with Christmas other then mentioning snow) along with carols like “O’ Come oh Ye Faithful” , “Hark the Herald” and “Silent Night” (arguably the most famous of all) were sweetly pouring out of my speakers filling up the atmosphere with Christmas like I had not known since my expired years could be represented by one digit. It was as if the music was moving and controlling my actions and what my mind pondered as I went about the house putting up the decorations.
It was with care and taste that I festooned the apartment with the intensions of bringing back that holiday feeling that had been lacking for so long as it was with the new lady in my life who had not been there the previous year that I wished to share it. All was ready for her arrival. She had still not gotten back from her place of employment and as I waited I could see the work I had done which filled me with a certain sense of pride. I saw how the room as well as the ambiance had changed because of a simple tree that contained ornaments and music that perhaps in any other time of the year would have caused tediousness.
Hanna, the mother of “The Little Opera Singer” eventually arrived home to see how I had transformed the apartment in to something that resembled a shopping store window prompting her to add her eagerness to the scene. She would go on to tell me many years later how strange she found it at first fore she was not accustomed to seeing a Christmas tree so early but that after looking at it for sometime she started to get that feeling that Christmas was on its way. Naturally the music along with the tree enthused us as we planed our Christmas and what we were going to get one another.
The following days went by bringing Christmas ever closer with this tree of the season serving my girlfriend and I as a permanent reminder that soon that day would be upon us on which we would exchange presents and feel the delight of having one another. It even seemed unbelievable that a tree could do all this. The effect naturally was stronger at night with its lights a flashing. It even seemed to mesmerize us in to a peaceful sense of happy tranquility that could not really be compared to any other as we looked at the tree which had taken on a life of its own for we could gaze upon its simple form and find comfort. It was then that I figured out what had gone amiss for so long and what now was back to stay for every Christmas to follow. I might add that this holiday season was also kept busy with several visits from not only myself but my girlfriend to the department stores as well as other stores to do that required shopping that make the time of year beautiful.
Christmas eve eventually came but contrary to Polish tradition most Americans treat this evening as a time of reflection for the celebrations to come the following day rather then as a festive one so it was next to our tree that we spent this evening. Watching those classics such as “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens and “It’s a Wonderful Life”, that never seem to age as this time of year also does not and me reading “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore was what we chose to do on our eve of Christmas. It also being that it was our first Christmas together I decided to share some other American Christmas traditions such as eggnog which I made remembering that it was rum that it should include.
And as must be the case Christmas followed its evening which took us out of our slumber bright and early to open up those presents which we had so tenderly purchased for each other. Perhaps it was not another Giorgio Armani Suit that I got but a bottle of eau de toilet by the same designer which was not unwelcome by me. As for Hanna she opened the “Tissot” watch I bought her which she wears till this day. The day was with us and for the two of us nothing could have been more perfect as we were having ourselves a merry little Christmas.