As you probably know (since I’ve mentioned it a bazillion times here on my blog already), our family spent last Christmas in California with our relatives. My aunt/Ninang was kind enough to let us stay at her place the whole time that we were there. She lives alone so I think she welcomed the company. The last time we spent Christmas there, my aunt didn’t bother to decorate her house because she was too busy, but this year she decided to go all out. She bought lights, took out decorations she had in storage, borrowed some Christmas stuff from my cousin and even bought a tree! A real live tree!
Ninang told us that she’s always wanted a real tree for Christmas, but she never had the chance to go out and get one, mostly because she knew it would take a lot of time and effort to set up, which is something she wasn’t willing to go through since there was no one but her to appreciate it anyway. But this year, since we decided to have our Christmas party at her place, she told us that she would finally go out and get one.
I guess buying a Christmas tree becomes boring after a while to people who do it every year, but since it was a first time for all of us, we were all really excited. I imagined walking into a place filled with pine trees and inspecting every single one until we find the “perfect” tree. For many tree farms, I suppose that that’s the case, but my aunt decided to get her tree at Costco, so it didn’t happen like that. (She didn’t actually plan on buying her tree there, we were just shopping for some essentials when we saw a sign near the entrance which said that they had live trees for sale at the parking lot so we decided to check it out.) They only had one tree set up, and the rest were tied up to facilitate faster sales I suppose. My aunt bought the tree there because it was much cheaper compared to some other places she looked at. She paid about $40 for an 8 and 1/2 ft tree, which is a such a bargain, but little did we know that we would soon be wishing that she picked a smaller tree instead.
Me with the one tree on display that was not tied up
Trees for sale. That’s my Ninang in the red jacket on the right.
Customers picking out trees.
My aunt wanted a big tree, so she chose this one. Some friendly advice : if you plan on buying a tree for the first time, I have to tell you that seeing them tied up like that was very deceiving of its actual size. We thought that what we had in front of us was a good estimate of what the final tree would look like once we set it up, but we forgot that it will need a base to stand, and that it will double in diameter once we untie it!
Another thing we forgot to consider is how we planed on getting our tree home. In the Philippines, when you buy something this big, the shops usually offer a delivery or at least get their staff to help you load and secure it on your car. But this was America, the land of independence, so the most we got was having two of the men help us carry the tree on to my Ninang’s car. (I may sound sarcastic and ungrateful but honestly I have no idea how we could have gotten that tree up there without their help, so big thanks to those two men.)
They helped us load it on the car, but we had to secure the thing ourselves using some ropes that they provided. Here’s a shot of Ninang and me trying to figure out how to tie the top of the tree.
It was hard, but we enjoyed the challenge since it was a new experience for all of us. It took about 20 minutes and a lot of rope before we felt that the tree was secure enough not to slide off the car during the drive home. But just to be safe, we avoided the freeway and stayed on the side streets.
If we thought that the hard part was over, we were so wrong. That was just a preview of what was to come. Once we got home, we had no idea how we were going to get the tree off the car and inside the house without having to cut it up into tiny pieces. There were only five of us and none of us are that strong (Ezra couldn’t even get near the tree without itching and her eyes watering because of her allergies), but we somehow managed to get the tree down without getting crushed.
After that it was time for us to attach the base so it could stand. To do this we needed to make room at the bottom by cutting off some of the branches there. Sounds pretty easy right? Now try doing it without the proper tools. My aunt doesn’t own a saw or anything of the sort so we actually had to use a kitchen knife to do this!
Still smiling and laughing – mostly at ourselves for not knowing what we got ourselves into.
Finally we got the base of the tree attached. (This was the closest Ezra could go near the tree without her allergies acting up.)
We managed to get it upright so we can make adjustments for it to stand on its own.
Then of course we had to get it inside the house. It was at this point in time that we were seriously regretting buying a tree this big. (But it couldn’t be helped I suppose – first time buyers always want the biggest and the best. To quote Ninang: “Gusto ko laki!”) It was so heavy that my dad was seriously considering leaving it outside until Kurt could come over and help us carry it. But we somehow managed to get it inside the house and in my aunt’s living room by placing a towel under the base and sliding it all the way there.
Once it was in place, we undid the bindings to free the branches. By the time we were done, the tree had taken up so much living room space that we had to transfer some of the furniture to the other rooms just so we could move around.
This is what it looked like with all the branches out. We trimmed some of them to make the tree a bit narrower. (This was actually taken just before we threw the tree out when the holidays were over. I wasn’t able to get a shot of the tree before we decorated it. If you’re observant you probably noticed that the tree was moved from one side of the room to the other for our Christmas party XD)
At the time, my aunt didn’t have any Christmas ornaments to hang on her tree so my mom took an old parol she found in my aunt’s garage to place at the top and strung up some chocolates to hang on the tree:
Picture of me showing off my new Sony Vaio in front of our Reese’s/Kit Kat tree XD
The following week, my aunt was able to borrow some Christmas decorations from Ate Maryann and Ate Xenia. She also went out and bought some lights to decorate the tree with.
My mom and aunt putting the lights on the tree
And this is what the final tree looked like on Christmas day:
Ezra and Kurt – the happy couple
It took a lot of work but it looks beautiful, don’t you think? The best part of this whole experience was seeing everyone’s surprised expression when they saw the tree for the first time. They were all amazed that we managed to buy and set up a tree that big by ourselves.
We grew to love that tree a lot during the time that we were there. It felt amazing to wake up to the refreshing scent of pine every morning. Thinking back, I think all of us were happy that we ended up with a huge tree. Sure it gave us a lot of problems in the beginning, but that was what made it so memorable. But of course, all good things must come to an end 😦 Right before we left California, my aunt asked us to help her dismantle her beloved tree and chop it up into small pieces so the gardener could collect it and dispose of it properly. I never thought there would come a time that I would be so sad over saying goodbye to a tree 😦
Ezra, Kurt and me removing the lights and decorations. (Pardon my bright red pajamas. They were a gift from my aunt and I just love how comfy they are.)
My dad cutting the branches so we could fit the tree through the door. Thankfully Tito Willie let us borrow some of his gardening tools for this. I can’t imagine having to cut all the branches off using Ninang’s kitchen knife again.
Halfway done~ My dad got tired so Kurt and my mom took over.
After removing the branches, we moved the tree outside and the gardener picked it up the following day. We wish we could have kept it to remind us of our wonderful Christmas celebration that year, but that’s obviously not possible.
I don’t want to end this entry on such a negative note, so here’s something interesting. It’s a picture of one of my aunt’s Christmas decorations. Notice anything wrong with this picture?
Do you see it? (Don’t worry, a ghost isn’t going to pop out and scare the hell out of you guys.)
Here’s the answer:
There’s an elephant in the belen!!! LOL. We have no idea where it came from. My mom set this up and she said she found the elephant in the box along with the other figures so she placed it there (even though it was obviously packed in the box by mistake). It’s so amusing to see our guests’ reactions when they discover an elephant sitting among the lambs and Three Kings XD
So yeah, that’s it for the tale of the Christmas tree. Sorry if it got too long, but like I said, it was our first live Christmas tree so it was a very special experience for all of us 😀
To wrap up this entry, here’s a wacky gif of our family in front of the tree on New Year’s Eve: