One of the many stories Michal told me about his childhood (which was hard for me to imagine) was how Czech’s didn’t put up the Christmas Tree (Stromeček) until the night before Christmas. He claimed everyone would hang the tree out on the balcony (or window if they didn’t have one) until it was Christmas Eve. Then his parents would forbid he and his sister to not go into their bedroom all day. When the parents rang the bell after the family dinner they were told that Baby Jesus (Ježišek) had just left and they should look in the room. I asked several times how it worked that the kids would not notice all the Christmas trees hanging outside the buildings. He just said they didn’t think about it. Of course I didn’t believe it until I saw it.
This past two weeks I have seen plenty plenty of trees still wrapped in netting waiting to be decorated soon. I feel a bit sorry that they are not enjoying their trees earlier like I am. I am entertained by seeing people buy the tree and have to carry it awkwardly on the tram to their flats. We did use our car to get our tree at IKEA of all places. I didn’t understand why the maximum number of trees you can buy is 10 until I realized IKEA was giving a discount if you got the tree from their lot. No wonder it was a zoo when we were there.
For me the experience was very different growing up in Montana. I remember putting up our tree several weeks before Christmas when I was young. I carried that tradition into my family. The day after Thanksgiving (end of November) did seem a bit early, but it was the only weekend I had off work to get it up and decorated. It also meant we got to enjoy it longer. Although I have to admit we had the fake tree when we lived in San Diego. I just couldn’t justify buying a tree when I grew up on a ranch. It was expensive and seemed to me a waste.
The first time I told Michal about our ranch tradition of ‘hunting’ a Christmas tree he didn’t believe me. Me and my brothers and our friends would load up in a truck or two and go up as far as we could drive without getting stuck to find a suitable trees. What seemed to be a simple idea of just cutting down a tree always turned into something much more complicated and more of an adventure. Usually the vehicles would have some sort of break down or get stuck. I think a time or two, both vehicles would be stuck and there would be a lot of digging and standing around complaining. In fact one time the chain came off the pulling truck and flew back and shattered the other truck’s window. We were young and foolish and just laughed it off. Another time we went into a snow covered ditch and my cousin flew up to the ceiling and broke her nose. The cold temperature kept it numb enough to make it home before the pain set in.
We would then spend hours hiking in the snow to find the perfect selection. Then someone would take the rifle and shoot at the base to knock it down. It was an adventure and a lot of fun as I remember. However, my father realized it was not cheaper to send a bunch of teens and young adults up on our property to get Christmas trees because of all the havoc we would cause. I’m pretty sure that is why he started buying the trees in town. Looking back I don’t blame him one bit.