2021 has been a strange year for our family. The elephant in the room, of course, is COVID-19, which kept us from our “usual” activities: swimming lessons, regular outings, dim sums, movies, concerts, and traveling. Add to that our move from our home of 14 years to a new, larger house, and you’ve got more than enough crazy. But then I decided to change companies again (Alex has worked for the same organization since before I met her, and we celebrated 16 years of marriage this year).
So, yeah, it’s been a weird year.
We get fresh (“real”) Christmas trees. My parents got real trees for the first many years of my life, then switched to an artificial tree when I was in my early teens, so I know some of the ins and outs of such beasts. Frankly, nothing smells as good as a real tree. Which is why, now that I’m the parent, I have more say in what we get.
The problem is getting one. In (many) years past, we bought from the lot, just like Ralphie’s parents, at prices … well, we tried for lots that had some charitable aspect to them. But eventually, we went with the cheapest tree we could find because putting down $80 (and far more, in some cases) for an arbour that would last 4 weeks just seemed way, way out of whack.
Typically, we acquire said tree in the first week of December. Otherwise, the tree dries out, needles everywhere, and it becomes an eyesore. In our old house, where there was a higher-than-usual humidity, we could get away with a tree for longer. Our new house is much drier, so there’s a bigger concern about drying out a tree. Hence waiting until today to get our tree to maximize the freshness.
Originally, we were going to truck out into the wilderness to cut down our own tree. This is a practice of many folks in Calgary, as for a mere $5 to the Government, you can cut down a tree on Crown Land (with a few restrictions). But scheduling is a thing, and getting out into said wilderness, find a tree, and get back is sometimes a challenge when Alex has to be at work for 3:30 in the afternoon. (Yes, we know, “get up earlier” is a thing. Clearly you don’t know this family…)
Because the round-trip was a problem, we opted this year to forego with the adventure and just get a local lot tree.
And we thought a round-trip was a problem.
Despite being in the foothills of the Rockies, there aren’t a plethora of trees in the area. No tree farms, either. Calgary’s Christmas trees come either from the East Coast (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, in particular, which I never cease to find amazing that they come from so far away), or British Columbia. Needless to say, the prices can be fairly steep.
The nearest lot to us, set up every year on the southeast corner of Sarcee Trail SW and Richmond Road, had a grand total of three – yes, 3 – trees left when we arrived. All the others were gone. The three trees would have made even Charlie Brown cry. $150 each.
Why? Well, this has been one of the worst years for British Columbia. Forest fires galore and then epic flooding. And that’s not counting the pressures from years of poor growing weather (and other forest fires) that haven’t quite decimated the Christmas tree industry, but I’ll tell you – our lumber prices are obscene. Ship from the East? They did. They’re all gone.
The decision was made, pretty before we even got there, that we had to go back to our Plan A - truck into the wild and find a tree. But it wouldn’t be today. It’ll have to wait until next weekend, when we have the time. And we’ll also have to make the effort: get up early, move fast, get home, set up. ‘Cuz Christmas is coming, and we can’t wait any longer.