A deadline submission means that all the while I am writing this column our Christmas tree is still standing in the woods somewhere up Chipper Road; waiting patiently for our arrival.
For the unfamiliar, Chipper Road is on the south side of the Exploits River: you just cross the bridge behind the vacant mill lot, take the road to the Salmonid Interpretation Centre and within a minute make a left turn at the electrical substation.
For decades, forestry roads were built to access timber stands and Chipper Road earned its name as trees in that area were cut, chipped, and box trucked to the mill to be made into newsprint. In the mill's nearly 100-year history, millions of tons of newsprint were produced and exported worldwide; first rolls came off the machines on Dec 22, 1909 and the last ones on Feb 12, 2009.
Chipper Road has become our go to place for a Christmas tree as there are plenty of spruce trees in the area; our first choice Christmas tree for quite some years.
Real trees mean we cannot be gung ho to put one up weeks, even a month, before Christmas as more and more people are wont to do these days with artificial trees.
My only experience with an artificial tree goes back to 1969. I lived alone in a basement apartment on Withrow Ave in Toronto and an older brother gave me his castoff. I went about putting it together, but quickly had enough of it, hove it in the garbage and went treeless.
We have gone to the woods to get all of our trees except for two. The most memorable purchase was the $10 tree I bought from the late Art MacDonald. Being an astute entrepreneur Art told me that my price was not the price he was charging doctors. It wasn't a case of buyer beware, but the seller being aware of buyer.
In my boyhood days, I and other boys made a few bucks by selling a Christmas tree or two. However, in Nova Scotia bigger bucks are made as Christmas tree farms create jobs and generate millions of dollars in sales and income with exports to USA and Latin America.
In my days at St F X in Antigonish in the late fall we could hear peculiar sounds nearby campus; it was a bundling machine that compressed Christmas trees which were bound for the USA. Nova Scotia's exports are expected to be even better in years ahead as Dalhousie University has now developed a new breed of faster-growing balsam fir that has a better fragrance and keeps its needles for three months; thus, better for long distance shipping.
Newfoundland needs every job possible, thus some simple government promotion of the use of real trees instead of artificial ones could potentially generate the purchase of more local trees; farmed or otherwise. We need to be more serious about every job possible; be more like Nova Scotia.
As well, real trees are much more environmentally-friendly as the carbon footprint (greenhouse gases) created by artificial trees – making them and shipping from China - is an issue in itself. Sooner or later, artificial trees end up in our landfills.
In the right place, plastics are fantastic. Our 13-year-old van has plastic parts as good as the day they were installed in the Toyota factory in the USA.
However, all the Chinese (and other low paying countries) made plastic decorations on the outside and inside of homes and on commercial properties are not necessary to joyously celebrate Christmas. And many of those huge plastic blow-ups are more to do with the slick marketing of movies or TV shows than to do with the celebration of Christmas.
Persons are wont to point the finger (rightly so) at big industry polluters to clean up their act. However, all too many persons need go no further than the bathroom mirror to see another culprit – themselves – the very ones who are purchasing the mountains of worthless Christmas plastic products which tend to be garbage; non-recyclable.
As for our trip to the woods for a Christmas tree, conditions are looking pretty good. Other years have been as good or better, but we have had some miserable Christmas tree hunts – bitter cold and snow at times waist high.
My worst Christmas tree expedition was in our second year of marriage. I went across the river alone and the icy road was nature's warning for me to turn back; but I didn't. I did get a tree, but the drive back had my heart in my mouth most of the time as so many times the big Chevy seemed it was about to slide off the road into a ditch or over an embankment. Never again alone, and never on icy roads.
As for going to the woods for that elusive tree, a wise man always make sure the missus goes with him; and not just for safety. As what has a man to gain by not cutting down the first tree she gives the nod!
All of our nine, as children and as adults (plus three grand-children) have been in the woods one time or another for the Christmas tree hunt. It can be a bit of fun in itself...trudging through the snow, looking for the right tree, agreeing and disagreeing, laughing, foolishness, talking, posing for pictures, and lugging the tree out. And on the way home, there is joy in relishing the day when we do it in jig time.
Families do all sorts of things to celebrate the religious and secular aspects of Christmas be it midnight mass, carol service, Santa Claus, visitors dropping in, and surely having loved ones come home; or now, quite often, parents are off to other parts of Newfoundland and elsewhere to be with their offspring and grand-children.
Our Christmas includes the full meal deal Christmas dinner, turkey, riblets, peas pudding, and all. Then, it's sitting around the Christmas tree as the birch in the fireplace burns away; presents are opened; and laughing and talking fills the room.
For the whole 12 days of Christmas the relaxing includes feasting on leftovers and homemade goodies such as cookies, caramel popcorn, spiced nuts, pickled eggs and perhaps my second attempt at pickled wieners. And most likely we will have a night of watching coloured slides of things we did in days gone by.
All of ours, but one, will be home for Christmas, (one arriving late on Christmas Eve and another on Boxing Day). Our daughter in Halifax has her Jewish neighbours over for a visit. Likewise, we have had our Muslim neighbours visit us on Christmases past, and again this Christmas, the welcome mat will be always there for them to come in.
Peace be with you all.
Andy Barker is a regular columnist with The Advertiser in Grand Falls-Windsor.
Andy Barker at firstname.lastname@example.org