My husband and I started dating after the new year and we spent the spring, summer, and fall, falling in love and doing all the things that newly dating people do, unaware that our differences in holiday traditions were about to collide.
As the holidays approached, we started to talk about logistics. We knew we wanted to spend them together but how? Would we spend them at my parent’s house? Would we celebrate some way in our apartments in New York City? And what did he mean when he said he was raised Jewish, never had a Christmas tree before and wasn’t sure he could, as part of his identity and traditions, be comfortable with having a tree in his home? That last question (okay three questions really) was a biggie. And while I wasn’t naive enough to know that not everyone grew up with a Christmas tree, what I couldn’t answer was whether I’d be willing to give up the Christmas tree as a part of my holiday tradition.
My favorite memories of Christmas were of our real Christmas tree—decorating it with all the handmade ornaments I made over the years in elementary school and fighting with my brother and sisters over who got to put the angel on the top. There was something magical about a fresh Christmas tree. Not only is it the centerpiece of the season, but I have always loved how a tree contained all the memories of a family—from a meaningful ornament to an upcycled baby glove—it was a visual storybook sitting in the living room! And each night during the holidays, before going to bed, I would sit in the dark, with only the lights of the Christmas tree on to illuminate the room, mesmerized by the glittering stories our tree would tell.
So when the question came up about having a Christmas tree and what it meant to me, came up, I wasn’t prepared to answer. I needed to think about how I felt about having—or not having—a tree. I needed to figure out if I could live without a Christmas tree, as part of my inherited family tradition, and if not, would it be a deal-breaker between me and the person I felt was destined to be my husband?
Later that week, Blake told me he had a surprise for me. We walked all over the East Village that night. It felt like we were going in circles, but I didn’t care—the city was in high holiday mode, and it was nice to walk around and enjoy the decorations and the festive atmosphere pouring out of restaurants and cafes. Blake suddenly stopped at a corner full of Christmas trees, all lined up and wrapped in red netting, ready to be taken home. The pine-fresh smell was as raw and strong as if we were in the middle of a pine-filled forest. I wanted to bury my nose in those trees, inhaling the memories of holidays past. He turned to me and said, “I may have never had a Christmas tree before, and I may not be ready for one of these six-footers, but I would love to buy our first of many trees together.”
I threw my arms around him and was so happy he could foresee a new tradition in his life—that we could forge our own unique path to create a new tradition for ourselves and our future family. And while the tree may not look like the one I grew up with—and certainly not like anything he grew up with—it would certainly be our own.
We now have our own sentimental ornaments, both purchased and made, and Blake has gotten pretty handy at keeping that tree looking fresh by watering it daily. And I wouldn’t wish it to be any other way.
Editor’s note: Andie and her husband, Blake kept the Christmas tree tradition going, now with two kids! Here are a few snapshots from their Christmas celebrations as a family: