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?


*The Testament (John Grisham)

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4 thoughts on “What about Christmas details in our writing?

  1. Judith Robl says:

    When I was growing up, we always had a real tree. And it was never the right size. My grandmother would send my grandfather to get a “smaller tree than last year” and he would inevitably come back with a ten foot tall tree to put in a living room with eight and a half foot ceilings. It was a running joke. We always had to cut some off the bottom. But my grandmother used those boughs to create other greenery wreaths and sprays for the doors and stairway bannisters. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to the real trees, so I make do with artificial. It was years before I knew why I had trouble breathing during the Christmas season – or the autumn leaf burning season for that matter.

  2. joylene says:

    We won’t discuss our tree today, (grin) but I have to say… John really wrote that! I’m appalled. Goodness, what was he thinking! He’s since been to Toronto several times, so… all’s forgiven.

    My mother used to paint fake snow on the windows. Until she moved up north to be closer to us. Haha.

    There isn’t enough time or space to write everything I want to share, but know that you’ve got me remembering things I haven’t thought of in years. Thanks, dear Carol!

    Merry Christmas!

  3. Gotta love a woman who knows her pines! Putting up a tree does make you think of all Christmas’ past shared with loved ones.The scent of pine permeating all the rooms in the household. creating a sense of child like wonderment, and anticipation for a day of giving, and relaxation with family and friends. Relaxation except for those busy cooking in the kitchen, or hosting of course!

  4. Carol says:

    The above screen name made me smile — “cedarpineword” seems especially appropriate for today’s post.

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