The annual Christmas tree tradition

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December 9, 2002

Today is the day to rummage through the prop department. has a major interview coming up this Friday. You will not want to miss it.

If you live in Chicago or are planning on visiting, I recommend you check out Centerstage Chicago. Specifically, my reviews of Cherry Red, Deleece, Il Fornello, The Holiday Club, The Kit Kat Club, Nick's Uptown and Trullo.

It is irrevocably Christmas time as far as I am concerned; our tree is up at home. And now, a glimpse into the annual Christmas tree tradition.

-Preparation: A plastic mat is placed on our hardwood family room floor, and a heavy white metal stand on top of it.

-Arrival: Dad (Edward Zulkey) brings home Christmas tree, dragging it through the front door and up to the front steps.

-Discussion #1: If this is the same kind of tree we got last year, or a different one. Or, whether we have always gotten the same kind of tree, and we're just crazy for thinking that we get different ones.

-Placement: Dad holds the tree, Mom (Janice Zulkey) tells him how to position it so that it's straight.

-Decoration: Pine sap and needles mysteriously end up on everybody, even those not touching the tree.

-Discussion #2: Whether my Mom wants my Dad to move it to his right, her right, or some other right.

-Finish: Tree is straightened and screws are tightened in the stand to keep it in place.

-Admiration: Everyone remarks upon what a nice tree my Dad picked out (we used to all go to the tree-picking-out place, held at the playground of a school for retarded children, but now, we just trust my Dad to pick out a good one.)

-Clean-up. The Zulkey children, or those of us who are not away in college, are asked to pick the needles up from the front hall, front steps and family room.

-Discussion #3: Why these needles must be picked up by hand, instead of by vacuum cleaner (answer: because the vacuum cleaner would get clogged.)

-Lamentation: In younger days, Zulkey children would be reimbursed $1 apiece for such hard labor.

Usual aftermath:

-Mom complains about the difficulty of putting up Chistmas lights, so I do it myself, because a dark, undecorated Christmas tree is just boring and bit depressing (white, non-blinking lights replaced the colored, very hot screw-in lights about ten years ago.)

-Ornaments are put on, including the styrofoam cups covered in tinfoil 'bells' from grade school. Usually one ornament breaks.

-The creche is set up. For old time's sake, once a year I space out the wise men across the family room floor so it looks like they're still walking towards the stable. This is fun until somebody steps on one.

-My Dad reminisces about the one time, when I was five, that I said my prayers in front of the Christmas tree.

-Enjoyment through Advent and Christmas, and then disappointment after New Year's, when it all must be taken down again. Usually one ornament accidentally goes out with the trash, but it is worth it, as the disposal of the Christmas tree consists of throwing it off our second-floor balcony and watching how far it rolls off our front-yard hill towards the street.