For our family Christmas, a natural tree is a must. Plastic trees just don’t cut it as far as I’m concerned. Sure they’ve come a long way from the color coded branches that you had to struggle to insert into a perforated broomstick, in fact some are so easy to put up now a days it’s just a question of unfolding them. But where is the fun in hauling the Christmas tree box out of the basement or attic to unfold it into your living room? Convenience I suppose, yet there’s just something traditional about having a real tree for Christmas. The full shape, the long branches and the smell, hmmmm the smell… I love every part of the experience, from picking the tree to strapping it down to the van to unravelling it at home to let the branches open out ready to be decorated. There’s one part however where I have to say that the artificial tree owners have a major advantage and that is with the tree stand.
A simple cross-shaped footing balances the artificial tree perfectly. Keeping it straight is of no concern because it is done automatically. The traditional tree however requires a stand and for those of you with real trees, you already know where I’m going with this. The basic tree stand, a plastic cup shape with four adjuster screws costs about $15 and will make you curse like a trucker. Once you place the trunk of the freshly cut tree in the center of the cup you then have the arduous task of adjusting the screws to keep the tree centred and balanced. Impossible to do alone, one must lay on the floor while the other holds the tree. Turning the ridiculously small screws this way and that like a bank robber trying to crack a combination lock, the tree holder, who doesn’t really have a good view of the trees straightness either issues commands from above. This is also known as the Christmas tree marriage tester as both participants become frustrated with one another while they try to accomplish the seemingly simple task. In my experience, the cheaper the model the less likely that it will hold the tree in place or even keep it from falling over. Sure, you can upgrade, but they are all pretty much the same concept. I splurged a couple of years ago and spend $58 on a ‘fool proof’ tree stand that was ‘easy’ to use. Once again it had a screw system to hold the tree, but with large spiky rectangles that gripped the tree with ease. The problem with this model was that the rectangular grips were so thick that they took to much space in the holding cup forcing me to hack away at the tree trunk to shape it into a spear of sorts just to get the darn thing in! After losing patience last year, it broke in my hands. I ended up modifying the stand Mc Gyver style to make it through the holiday.
This year I had to figure something out. The tree stand operation put a damper on the experience for me every year. I was determined to find an alternative. I jumped on my laptop and made a quick search and to my utter surprise found the solution within seconds. A bucket! Yes, a bucket. This innovative individual simply suggested the obvious. You take a 15L bucked, put the tree in the center, pour in some unsalted gravel or river stone around the trunk to hold the tree and then add water. To hide the bucket, simply place it inside an empty decorative plant pot that is the same size or bigger and that’s it! I went out to Canadian Tire picked up a shiny tin bucket for $10 and a bag of gravel for $4. When I came home, I got to work immediately. The whole process took 3 minutes and the tree stood solid and straight. No arguing, no struggling and no infernal screw tightening. It was so easy and back to basics that it made any other method seem like a waste of time and money. In the end we didn’t bother putting the bucket in an empty plant pot because the clean shiny surface of the bucket reflected the pattern of the tree skirt making it look beautiful. I recommend this method to all! It’s such an incredibly easy alternative that has taken the frustration out of a pleasant tradition for our family.