Wednesday 2 December 2009

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree . . .

One of the things I looked forward to around this time each year was our family's annual purchase of the Christmas Tree. I Loved the way it smelt, and I loved the way it felt, and also what it stood for. Every year my father would go on his own to pick our Christmas tree and bring it back to the house very carefully tied on to the roof of our family car with a sturdy rope. The very sight of the tree was enough to strike excitement and joy into our hearts, for we knew that when it appeared . . . Santa could not be very far behind.

My father would leave it leaning against the outside of the house, right next to the front door, until all had been readied in preparation for it inside. A special cloth had to be put onto the floor where it would be set, I suppose to help protect the carpet and floor beneath from any accidental spills and to minimize the agro of fallen needles. My father also had to saw a little bit off of the end each year, which only added to the lovely smell.

We had an old red and green metal tree stand. It looked very similar to a halo that they would put someone's head into after having been in a bad car accident. It had a small dish at the bottom in which to hold the water the tree would need to keep it fresh, and legs that jutted out from there, with a round bit at the top that had three large screw like things built to hold the tree into place. He'd bring the tree very carefully into the house and on into the living room, so as not to make too much of a mess . . . and into the stand it would go. There was always much discussion on whether it was stable and would stay standing upright or not. My mother always ended up securing it with a piece of string just in case.

The smell that it brought into the house was heavenly. All woodsy and of the outdoors . . . the stringent smell of a pince forest . . . Christmas. I always loved that smell and, to this day, when I come across a real Christmas Tree, I have to pinch a few needles between my fingers and rub them so taht I can inhale it's lovely scent . . . oh . . . the wonderful memories that engenders . . . I have a little candle that is called Oh Christmas Tree. I only bring it out at Christmas and whenever I open the lid I am taken back to those long ago Christmas times with the scent. It smells just like a Christmas tree. It's just wonderful.

Nothing could be done to the tree for at least 24 hours. It would just sit there in it's stand, so that the branches could adjust to the warmth of the house, and fall into their proper places. The excitement in the air was so tangible, I'm sure you could cut it with a knife. We children would be boucing off the walls. I'm not sure how my mother stood it.

The next evening the box of Christmas Decorations would come out and be carefully opened. Opening that box of ornaments was a gift in and of itself. These treasures were something we saw only once a year, at Christmas Time, and the opening of that box was a really big deal. We were not allow to touch the baubles and trinket it held until a certain point, and even then only certain ones, which made them all seem even more special.

There were what seemed like endless boxes of blown glass baubles. We had lived in Germany for about 4 years when I was really small, and a lot of them came from there. They were so pretty in their bright colours . . . pink, blue, red, green, gold and silver . . . some of them plain, and others etched with what looked like the frosted sparkly painted strokes of Jack Frost's magic paintbrush. There were little blown glass birds with real feather tails that clipped onto the tree with little metal clips and my absolute favourites . . . these small tin cups that held sprigs of artificial evergreen and these wonderful little red capped and white polka dotted toadstools. To this day I adore red capped and white polka dotted toadstools . . .

Before any decorations could be put onto the tree came the dreaded placing of the lights. After untangling them . . . it doesn't seem to matter how carefully you put them away each year, they always end up tangled . . . my father would carefully plug them in and check to see if they were all in working order. Inevitably there would be some that were not working, which meant the whole string would not be working and each light had to be checked individually to see which was the offending culprit. Once they were all in working order, they would be carefully placed onto the tree . . . the job that always fell to my father, and I'm sure he really appreciated!!!

Once all the lights were in place and checked out in the dark to see that they looked just right, the actual decorating of the tree would start. What a joyous time that was, as coloured garlands were draped cross it's prickly branches and each ball and bauble was clipped and hung in just the right place. Periodically we would withdraw to a distance just to have a look and see that everything was looking it's finest, and then back in we would go to continue to decorate some more or to move things around. Inevitably my mother would have to change some things around and move them up as our short little eager arms and hands could only reach so far. It was such an exciting time. Once all the ornaments were on and in place we hung strands of tinsel on it's branches. Back then they were made with real tin and were saved from year to year. It always felt as if we were draping the tree in real silver . . . oh, that tree was always so beautiful when it was all done. We'd sit on the sofa in our jimjams admiring it, eating our bedtime snacks . . . and every year it would be declared that without a doubt, this was the prettiest tree and the finest ever . . .

What a magical time of year it was for us all, and what lovely memories. Sadly we don't do a real tree anymore. Every year I say to Todd, let's do a real tree this year, but then the time gets away from us and we end up using our old artificial one anyways. I suppose they all look like real trees today anyways, and it's probably better ecologically to use an artificial one as we are not chopping down any real trees, but I do miss the smell and feel of a real tree, which somehow represents all that is good about Christmas for me.

How about you? Do you have a real tree of an artificial one? I'd love to hear yoru Christmas memories, so please share them with me if you can!!

This is a lovely cake for the holidays. Somehow Gingerbread and the Christmas Season seem to go together so very well! This lovely cake gets some of it's moistness from the pear puree that you incorporate into it's tasty batter, and then the crowning touch of caramelized pears that you serve it with are just gorgeous! This is a winner all the way around! Just the perfect treat to share together after trimming that beautiful tree!

*Gingerbread Cake With Caramelized Pears*
Serves 12
Printable Recipe

This fabulous cake is the perfect way to end a family meal over the holidays. Spicy moist cake, topped with sweetly caramelized pears. What's not to like!!

3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup of pear puree (1 to 2 small ripe pears, peeled and cored, pureed
in the blender)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed soft light brown sugar
3/4 cup molasses
3 large eggs

For the pears:
1/4 cup butter
6 ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch slices
3/4 cup sugar

Optional to serve:
sweetened whipped cream

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Grease and flour a 10 inch bundt pan very well. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves and salt together in a bowl. Place the butter into a mixing bowl and beat together with the brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the molasses. Whisk together the pear puree and the buttermilk. Stir into the creamed mixture alternately with the flour mixture, mixing well after each addition. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

Heat the butter for the pears in a large heavy skillet until it begins to foam. Add the pears, tossing them to coat. Sprinkle with the sugar and stir. Cook, over medium high heat for about 10 minutes, until the pears are caramelized and tender, stirring gently from time to time. Remove from the heat and allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Dust the cake with icing sugar and cut into wedges to serve. Serve garnished with the caramelized pears and dollops of sweetened whipped cream if desired.

Over on The English Kitchen this morning, there's a lovely Parsnip, Chorizo and Chestnut soup!! It's absolutely delicious, to say the least!


  1. We don't have real Christmas trees here in Australia. Sometimes you can buy expensive potted ones and there are many pine trees for sale. Last year after I left my husband we went and bought a small fibre optic tree. It isn't the same but it is pretty. My heart longs for a big tree and all my glass pretties but our new tree has some sweet ornaments including glass birds with feather tails. Imade sure to have some blue birds of happiness to start our new life.

    Hugs and love for a wonderful Christmas season and a great day today.

  2. You brought back great memories of tree trimming when I was a child! Loved the smell of the fresh evergreen (which is why we drape the mantles with the real stuff). Sadly, we have a faux tree for we like to keep it up longer than we used to when I was a child.

    It is still a treasure unwrapping the different ornaments! Like seeing old friends again!

  3. Hi Marie Its Laurie from Canada.We go to the bush on our property (forest) and mark with red ribbon , the tree we will cut.We mark it before snow fall.This makes it easier at christmas time.We have ornaments from years past, childrens made in school and at home.Cranberries strung on string with popcorn and sugar cookis.The dog sits and stares at the cookies for hours.Until you say OK you can have one.Gingerbread men of course.

  4. Years ago we had real trees but now all I do is a very small artificial one. The smell is something you never forget. I burn pine scented candles trying to imitate that smell in my house too.

  5. This brought back so many memories for me and I think I will try to do a post on my memories of the evolution of the "Christmas Tree" in our lives if I can fit it in before we leave for Italy.

    I enjoyed reading about your childhood and what your family did to make Christmas a special time filled with fond memories!

  6. What a wonderful picture of magical memories!

    We used to have a couple of bird ornaments with clips for feet too. Ours had tails made of silky white fibers. It was so long ago that I had quite forgotten about them until I read your description.

  7. Oh, YUM, Marie! Love the way this cake looks and sounds--will definitely have to try this!

    Love your description of your family tree and your traditions...sounds SO much like Christmas time when I was a much the same! I would love your box of ornaments--fabulous stuff!

    We have a real tree--sometimes a bit of a bother, but I really love them! Don't think our kids would ever let us go artificial! They have gotten so beautiful, though! My parents went to artificial, and their tree is just gorgeous--all pre-lit and everything!

    Thanks for always giving me so much beauty to enjoy--and I SO love our visits--you are a very dear friend!

  8. I loved your memories of the Christmas tree..I have some of the same. Most of our lives we have had a real one but last year after water slightly ruined the wood floor, I bought a fake easy to put up and sp pretty! It's still part of out Thanksgiving tradition thought for some of our kids. That cake looks SO good! Come say hi :D

  9. There were only a couple of comments here when you inspired me to say a word or two about our childhood Christmas trees. We no longer have a real one but a pre-lit one. The last real one we DID have stands proudly in the garden, where it has been growing for the past 2 years. Not all that big but it was thrilling to see the new growth on it, specially that first year.


  10. Thank you for making your recipes printable. You also brought back the great memories of going with my father to pick out the tree and waiting for it to warm up to put the ornaments on.


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