Christmas tree by permit.

Christmas tree farms disappoint me almost as much as pumpkin patches and apple orchards. When we first went to cut down our own tree at a farm a few years ago, I thought we'd be heading into the forest with a hatchet, surrounded by banks of snow, bunny tracks, and the quiet of the deep dark woods. It was nothing like a January calendar scene. It was rows of stubby conifers, arguing families, Christmas carols over a loudspeaker and a jammed parking lot. 

We've bypassed the farms and headed to Garden Works instead, but that feels less like an event. 

I can see thousands of cedars and spruces from our living room window. This province is thick with forests; as a lifelong BC resident I ought to be able to help myself to one seven-foot juvenile.

Turns out I can.

BC residents can apply for a free permit to cut down a Christmas tree from select areas of Crown land. The permit was emailed to me within hours of applying. Everything on the North Shore is designated parkland, so we headed up the Sea to Sky Highway in search of a logging road, and found one near Britannia Beach. 

Selecting and cutting a tree from a bona fide natural forest was extremely satisfying. To be fair, in some areas the ground was covered in shotgun shell casings, and we ran into some men in Christmas sweaters drinking beer from red plastic cups, but I accept that as authentic small-town BC. 

Pete and I hadn't adequately prepared to transport the tree home; somehow we had envisioned simply placing it in the trunk. It took some manoeuvring but Pete managed to fit the tree in the van, and we headed home with fir needles brushing our face. 

The thing's a little sparse and spindly, and the trunk's got some lordosis, but festooned with lights and baubles in the corner of the room it looks loved. And it is. We all agree, we've found a new tradition. 

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