Yes, it's the day before Christmas in Maine -
There is snow on the ground. The sun is shining, but the warmth is not significant enough to melt it away, so Saint Nicholas will have easy sledding. In my travels I pass many Christmas tree farms where rows of balsam firs, Maine's preferred tree, are growing. Some are no more than six inches tall, and some are over six feet. The tree farmer carefully tends them through the years, keeping them in symetrical shape and making sure no critters are infesting them. Some farms raise blue spruce and some raise Scotch pines. Nothing compares to the balsam for aroma. Branches are cut for wreaths and swags, and other artistic creations. Small twigs are twined into "kissing balls" to be hung in doorways or from the ceiling. One artistic greens person fashioned a Christmas tree on a wire frame. It was decorated for with berries and cones to be hung on a door in place of a wreath.
The Maine Tree is the Pine; the Maine Flower is the Pine Cone. But the Maine Christmas Tree is a Fir Balsam, preferable selected by the kids in a big "forest" of nearly perfect trees, cut by a parent who patiently lets the kids have a turn with the saw, doesn't mind a little pitch on the hands, or "spills" in the trunk of the car. If the tree is big it will ride home like a trophy on top, butt forward so the wind doesn't destroy the branches.
There was a time not so many years ago when after Christmas the kids would collect all the trees from the curb before the city trucks came around. They would pile all up down at the skating rink, or at some favorite gather spot, and light them for a stupendous fire. The combination of dried out branches, and sap still sealed in would throw sparks high into the air and the aroma would spread over the neighborhood.
Dangerous? No doubt it was. And it probably created a bit of pollution, too. But it was part of the winter post-Christmas ritual. And almost as much fun as Christmas itself.
scarborough maine 12/24/10