We butchered a tree today in the spirit of Christmas. I know there's a live tree/dead tree/organic tree/fake tree/no tree debate going on. But I just gotta have my Christmas tree. And it's local, at least.
There are a lot of rules for our tree. We put candles on the tree. I can hear you gasp. Everyone does. But we haven't had tree flambe yet. When I got married, my mother-in-law gave me the candles, candleholders that clip onto the branches, REAL tinsel, and a two page list of instructions so I wouldn't burn down our house. Yes, you have to be careful.
The tree must be real. Fake ones burn real good. The tree must be fresh. So we generally go out to a local tree farm and cut our own. We also light the candles a little early, but I'll get to that in a minute. The tree must be a noble, or some type with small needles, and layered is best. Pyramidal sheared douglas fir bushes just won't work. The candles have to be placed so that there is NOTHING above them, and they must stand straight up. If you use tinsel it must be real, metal tinsel. Not the fake plastic stuff. We reuse ours every year since it's extremely hard to find. My mother in law's list also said to make sure that an ornament was behind the candle to reflect the light, but in reality, that rarely works out.
Usually, we go to the inlaws on Xmas eve, and oooh and aaahh over their candlelit tree. By the time we get home we're tired, need to do the Santa thing, and our tree is getting a little dried out, especially if I haven't been good keeping it watered. So we started "torching the tree" on the solstice. We invite a few friends over, have cookies and cocoa (hot buttered rum for the grownups), and light the tree without the rush-rush-rush of "we need to get this over with so we can open the presents".
It's become a special time. A time where you have to slow down (no running around all those candles!), even if for just 15 minutes. The light is totally unlike electric christmas tree lights. It's warm, glowing. For 15 minutes we stop and think about family, friends, and what's in that present that the candle's dripping wax all over!