For whatever reason, the process of getting a Christmas tree has really brought out my Americanness. I hadn’t considered myself a big stickler for traditions, but suddenly, I’m trying to recreate an American Christmas tree. I’ve made compromises, but I’ve also promised myself to stock up on certain decorations the next time we go to the US.
Despite spending Christmas here before, I’ve remained pretty clueless as to how O’ Tannenbaum works here. These are some of the important questions I’ve been irritating my husband with.
1. Do you know what a tree-skirt is?
I tried to find a tree-skirt on Amazon (Amazon.de that is. Amazon.com has a whole section of them!) without much luck, so I decided to ask my husband if he even knew what one was. He did not. I tried describing it, and he seemed to have no clue what Germans actually put under the tree. When I asked him how he intended to keep needles and sap off of the floor, he suggested we put a trash bag under it.
His lack of a proper solution made me question whether his lack of knowledge about tree-skirts was a German thing or just a Mr. Faultier thing, so I asked a friend whose family had lived in both the US and Germany. She wasn’t sure if they could be found here either, so we asked her mother who informed us that Germans usually use blankets. Not trash bags like Mr. Faultier suggested.
If you don’t know what a tree-skirt is, it’s usually a round blanket or small, festive tarp that is made to wrap around the bottom of the tree. It’s got a hole in the middle and a split from the middle to the outer edge that can usually be tied or velcroed together.
Essentially like a skirt for the tree. I had planned on making my own from a table cloth until we stumbled upon a small round rug. It goes under the tree and stand instead of wrapping around, but it has the same look and makes it easier to water the tree. I’d call this a cultural-compromise win.
2. Where can I get a star for the top of the tree that lights up?
Apparently like tree-skirts, light-up stars are not a thing here. The most common top-of-the-tree decoration I’ve found so far are these fancy spike things that remind me of Prussian helmets that saw pictures of in history class. There are stars, too, but they just sit on top of the tree and might be covered with glitter and not lights.
Growing up, we always saved the star for last when decorating the tree, and plugging it in was our big sign that the tree was finished, and we were ready for Christmas. I don’t normally get very homesick, but the idea of not having this moment with our tree in Germany made me miss home quite a bit.
I haven’t found an adequate replacement yet. My current plan is to buy one of those sparkly stars or spikes and to hunt down a light-up star for next year – even if I have to pick one up over Thanksgiving and make it work with our electricity.
3. Why are all the trees so fat?!
German Christmas tree people seem to leave the trees as nature intended, instead of grooming them in to full, symmetrical cones. This means that they end up puffy on the bottom and sparse on the top, sometimes with empty sticks reaching for the sky at the top that you have to trim off yourself.
We weren’t looking for a big tree, but we needed a fairly narrow one for our apartment. Unfortunately all the small and medium ones were quite wide. It seemed that the width did not vary much, just the height. We managed to find a big one that looked like it had gotten squished on two sides, which ended up fitting into our space perfectly – after we cut off the top bit. It’s much bigger than Mr. Faultier expected. I think he wanted one shorter than me and ended up with one taller than him!
We do have these weird bits growing up at the top that I suggested cutting off. But apparently it’s a ‘King Tree’ and I’m not allowed to cut his crown.
I’m pretty happy with the tree, even with my conflicted feelings about its crown. It makes the apartment feel very homey – and it smells good, too!