I have never purchased a Christmas tree – well, not a chopped down pine one, as such. At the same time, we never miss a Christmas morning with gifts under some sort of trunked and leaved vegetation. To our family, the tree is a gift in itself.

While living in the (former) citrus capital of California, it occurred to us that the over-price of a cut-pine Christmas tree is higher than the budget price of a dwarf lemon, lime, orange, or young avocado. We just couldn’t see dropping a half a day’s wages on something doomed to die by year’s end. Far as we can tell, Christmas is the celebration of a fairly notable birth, and it seems odd to kill a tree to mark the occasion. Furthermore, I appreciate the way that a living organism draws the festivity out over the whole year and into your garden, there to be enjoyed for all time. And who can’t use another reason to celebrate every day?

Year to year, we always know someone who could use a new tree. Some local friends recently took on our kaffir lime from 2012 to put down roots in their new home’s garden. Part of our celebration is to give the tree away to a good home, or to make a fuss over planting it together in our own yard as a future token of our Christmas past. Over the years we have given away lemons and limes and oranges, but we kept an avocado for ourselves, as well as a native tangerine variety developed by a local university. But those were the California years. Since we haven’t got a garden of our own here, it’ll be another tree gift this season. I’m thinking that a feijoa would be ideal, because we like feijoas pretty well, and we’re confident that we’ll be invited back to any house where we’ve gifted a tree.

To me, a Christmas celebration feels more alive when your tree has a heartbeat, and I’ll take the scent of orange blossoms over cut-pine and sap any day. Plus, you don’t have to sweep up piles of needles from a decaying conifer in your lounge. Just make sure you keep the soil moist and maybe slide the little bugger out on a north-facing deck from time to time to get a day’s worth of sun. It’ll thank you with fruit come next spring.

Nothing changes as far as decoration is concerned. Strings of lights and bangley ornaments, a bent wire star affixed to the top-most branch that’ll hold it. We wrap a felt skirt around the base to hide the Garden Centre bucket and dirt and dress up the table we typically use to elevate the little critter. In the case of a dwarf citrus, you’ll likely want to do this as well to cast the illusion of height – a slight compromise, in my eyes, for the benefit of a fruitful future. But with an avocado or tangerine, they’re probably as tall as you’re accustomed to seeing, if a bit thinner, so no need for elevation. Don’t worry about the apparent sparsity of branches and bristles; your eyes adjust to the spirit of the occasion in due course. These aren’t fancy trees. If you’re trying to fill a high-ceilinged ballroom, you can’t exactly lug a massive grapefruit canopy and root ball into your sitting room, and I can’t say I recommend trying. Perhaps try a small stand of lemon trees; the effects of clustering are not to be underestimated.

Though your friends and family might look at you crookedly at first and inquire with genuine concern about your re-oriented holiday spirit, I can assure you that, should you choose to deck a citrus this season, you won’t be alone. I’ll be right there with you.

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Brian Sorrell has worked as a cook, typist, computer programmer, woodworker, bicycle repairman, and university lecturer, all of which inadequately prepared him for his current full-time role as Dad. In February 2012, the family packed up their house in California and relocated to Auckland, where he now specialises in chasing his always-on-the-run son, drinking coffee, and recording his adventures at Dadding Full Time

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