What about Christmas details in our writing?

Pine? Fir? Spruce? If you erect a tree in your home this month, does it matter to you which species you select and whether it’s thick and cultured or naturally grown? Or is the big decision maybe between real and… blech… artificial? (Sorry, but I have a bias!)

Lodgepole pine tree

Lodgepole pine tree

I realize there are people living in some cultures, locations, or situations where evergreen trees are not included in the celebration, but our home is not one of them. While “O Tannenbaum” isn’t among my favourite carols, I never feel quite ready for Christmas until our tree is in place. Believe me, the fragrance of fresh cut greenery in the house is better than any scented candle!

Those of us who advocate for a “real” tree often have very strong opinions about what constitutes the ideal one. Many of the trees I grew up with were Lodgepole pines because that’s the variety commonly found in the area of our Cariboo property. Their long branches can be a little ‘gawky’ at times, but I like them, even if I’ve occasionally referred to one of ours as a ‘Charlie Brown’ tree.

Identifying the species or subspecies doesn’t matter a whole lot to me, as long as I like its looks, but if I were writing about the Christmas tree gracing my protagonist’s living room, I’d be in trouble with that attitude. For readers living in pine country, the description might elicit a particular mental image, so it had better be accurate. It’s not enough to mention the existence of a generic Christmas tree, either; details are important. And if there are cones being saved for a craft project, they’d better be typical of the species.

Lodgepole pine cone

Lodgepole pine cone

Have you ever been reading a novel and come to a grinding halt at some inconsistency – some detail you know is not correct? John Grisham* may be tired of hearing from readers about his incorrect reference to the Inuit living in Newfoundland and a woman “born in an igloo” there, but it’s a lesson for all writers. Remember, if you send your characters out into the woods to cut down a long-needled Ponderosa (or bull pine) Christmas tree, the story needs to take place in an area where they grow in the wild.

Ponderosa pine

Ponderosa pine

Does your Christmas decorating include a tree? What’s your idea of a perfect one? Do you use specific details like these to enrich your writing?

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*The Testament (John Grisham)

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