This Christmas, branch out with a tree that celebrates life on the water
Coastal Texans usually celebrate the holidays with a sandy Christmas rather than a snowy one. Starfish replace typical Christmas stars, mermaids stand in for elves and reindeer and Christmas trees are decorated with nautical themes and beach treasures.
But no matter the style, choosing the right tree is essential to accentuating the ornaments.
Take the symmetrical Norfolk pine tree, with its delicate branches that don’t require cleanup after Christmas. Small ornaments hanging from this tree are easy to see within the branches, said Peggy Cornelius, owner of Tom’s Thumb Nursery in Galveston. And contrary to obvious assumptions, the Norfolk pine isn’t a Virginia tree; rather it’s from a tropical South Pacific island off Australia with a climate similar to the Gulf Coast. This tree is popular here as an ornamental and year-round yard tree. And, it’s not actually a pine tree, but looks so spiffy decorated for the holidays.
In terms of showing off an array of ornaments, the upside-down tree — designed specifically to be erected with the narrow side on the bottom — is another way of displaying fragile and fun ornaments. This style of tree allows the ornaments to be seen more prominently as they hang from the branches at eye level, said Seal Grief, owner of Strand Brass and Christmas on The Strand in downtown Galveston. And because of its narrowing shape, the tree allows for more available floor space for gifts and boxes.
“It is an attention-getter,” Grief said.
The upside-down tree isn’t a new fad. In fact, the tradition of hanging a fir tree from ceiling rafters dates back to the 1500s in Eastern Europe. At that time, the tree — decorated with flowers and food as a representation of abundance. The early legend of these upside-down trees is deeply religious, with English Benedictine monks selecting the triangular trees with a nod to the Holy Trinity — the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Holiday decorations with a nod to the nautical are popular on the Gulf Coast. Whimsical décor featuring Santa on a surfboard, ornaments made out of shells and wreaths swathed with anchors and flip-flops all add to the coastal ambience, far away from the snow and sleet of a Northerner’s holiday celebration.