On the first Sunday after southern Yukon’s cold snap waned, my roommates and I piled into Jayden Soroka’s Subaru and headed down the Fish Lake road in search of a household Christmas tree.
We pulled up beside a large drift, tightened our boots and barreled into the untouched, highway-side snow — smiles on faces.
A familiar pattern emerged; a small spruce tree would be spotted in the distance and hollers of excitement would ensue. We would congregate around the plant and one of us would find it wanting.
“Too short,” someone might say.
“Leanin’ kinda weird.”
“Bit bare on that side.”
It’s harder finding an adequate Christmas tree in the Yukon wilderness than in an urban tree farm, but the “eureka” moment when the perfect specimen presents itself is worth savouring.
So it was with glee and camaraderie that we unfastened Jayden’s Swedish-made axe and took turns chopping our chosen spruce. Once the tree was felled (the mighty Chris Madden delivering the decisive blow) we hauled it out of the woods and tied it to the Subaru’s roof rack.
The winters of my childhood featured nearly identical excursions. Every December my family would bundle up and head into the greenbelt behind our house is search of Christmas cheer.
It was a mostly happy ritual that tapered off in the mid-1990s as my sister and I lost our tree-hunting enthusiasm to the clutches of teenage apathy. One year we just dangled lights around my mom’s old ficus.
After a hiatus, it’s fitting that this was the year the old tradition was reinstated. Just like Christmas tree searches of yore, this year it was all about family.
My roommates and I often joke that our house is an adult orphanage. I’m the only one with blood relations in the territory. Jayden and Jennifer Duncombe are from Saskatchewan, and Chris is from Winnipeg.
But it’s a long, cold winter without kin. So what do southern émigrés do when they move here and leave their families behind? They forge their own. The Yukon is teeming with makeshift families, and our house is one such unit.
Sure, we get annoyed with each other for leaving dishes in the sink; but that’s not a problem, that’s the point. Haven’t you simultaneously brimmed with both love and anger at a person in your Yukon-family?
Regardless, if you go tree-hunting with that person, you are Yukon-family-for-life.