When I was growing up in the late 1950s and 1960s, Christmas was a magical time of the year and the centerpiece was our Christmas Tree.
My family didn't put up a live tree in those years. We weren't a family that trudged out in the snow to select a live tree, only to set it out as trash after the celebrations. No tromping through the woods, tree farms or corner tree lots for us. No, for us each year sometime just after Thanksgiving, Dad would retrieve the box holding the pieces of our artificial tree out of storage and assemble it (I think the assembly instruction must have included some colorful language LOL). I always assumed we never had a live tree because Mom didn't want to deal with the mess (and cleanup) of all the dropped needles that comes with having a live tree. Looking back, I know now that Mom and my baby sister had serious allergy and sinus conditions that would have been aggravated by spending so much time with a live indoor evergreen tree.
Our tree was a good sized tabletop tree, maybe 4 feet high. Every year my Dad would set up a large HO train platform on a pair of sawhorses and the decorated Christmas tree would be the centerpiece on the platform. I'll write more about the Christmas train display in another post, but this was the reason our tree was a tabletop sized tree. Sitting on the platform, the tree topper almost, but not quite, reached the room's ceiling.
We always decorated our tree with tinsel, never garland. Funny because as anti-mess as my mother was/is, she said it wasn't really a Christmas tree without tinsel. Mom said that garland was for people too lazy to take the time to hang tinsel properly.
Although we all helped to decorate the tree, when we were all finished with the decorations it was Dad's job to place the crowning touch - a mercury glass tree topper (the kind with the bulb and spire shape) on the top of the tree. I once asked why we didn't use a star or angel or one of those flashing light tree toppers that I'd see in the stores. I was told by my parents it was because that tree topper was like the ones they both grew up with and that's what we use in this family and no, we were not going to change. I decided that I was going to have a glitzy tree topper when I grew up. Only thing is now I choose to use a mercury glass tree topper because that's what I grew up with and any other topper doesn't seem like Christmas.
It's funny to realize that the older we get, the more we value tradition.