Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Hints And Comments For a Blind Person On Trimming a Christmas Tree

by Fred Wurtzel

It may be a little odd to some people, but some blind people have never decorated a Christmas tree. There was a recent request on a list-serve that I follow from a blind couple for directions on how to independently trim a tree. I have done this many times as a totally blind person, since losing my eyesight. It is not a science but there are some general principles which I follow.

We have been married for 34 years and have lots of ornaments collected over the years. Our first tree was just two feet tall, sat on a table, had maybe a dozen ornaments, and one string of lights. I bought it for $1.00 very near Christmas and all the needles fell off within a couple hours of bringing it into the house. We loved the tree, just the same.

Some people have theme trees and some people have all the same colored lights and ornaments. We are very eclectic. We have ornaments that remind us of people and events in our lives and they range from computers to pets, sports, food, reindeer to abstract curiosities. I like eclectic, myself.

Mary and I have a stylized star for the top of ours. It is pretty old and too heavy for some trees. I sometimes have to trim the point down to get a stem strong enough to hold it up. But, that is tradition for you.

We now have an artificial tree. I basically object to this, but I am too lazy to fight about it, since I will have to go out in the weather and cold and wet, bring the tree home, let it dry out, mount it in a stand and have it tip over a couple times before I get it right, then clean up all the needles after we take it down.

I love the smell of a real tree. I like the ecological reasons for having a real tree. Real trees create more jobs than artificial and the disposal is more ecologically friendly than a plastic, glass, or metal tree. So convenience and laziness, in me, is turning me into an environmental hypocrite. Just like a liberal like me, huh? (smile)

I prefer starting at the bottom with the lights. The lights go on first. Then garland if you use it, then ornaments, then tinsel if you use it instead of garland. Garland and tinsel are optional. Most people don't use both, though there are no rules. We started using garland because cats are vulnerable to choking on tinsel. A more earth-friendly alternative is to string popcorn with or without cranberries and use it instead of garland. This takes a lot of patience and that is why I don't do it.

One of the most annoying parts of lighting a tree is knowing if the string actually lights. Our color identifier has a light probe on it, so we can use it to know if a bulb is lit. You can also plug them in and feel if they get warm.

Most tree lights are wired in parallel, so if one goes out, they all go out. I find this to be the most annoying part of decorating. So plug in the lights before you string them on the tree to make bulb replacement easier.

Unless there is a window behind the tree, I do not totally encircle the tree. I start nearest the electrical outlet, then go straight across, proceeding toward the opposite side, near the wall opposite from where I started. Then go up six inches to a foot, depending on how many lights you have, and come back across, keeping the second string as near parallel to the first as possible. Keep repeating until you reach the top.

It is sometimes necessary to adjust if you come up with too few lights to reach the top, or have too many left when you reach the top, though this is not a major problem since you can simply reverse and go back down. You may end up with more lights at the top if you do this, which really isn't a big problem, depending on how fussy you want to be.

If possible, imagine where most people will view the tree from and consider that most of the decorations should be visible from that point of view and look relatively evenly distributed. My only rule is "Do my best, have fun, and don't worry."

With the ornaments, I start with the larger ones and try to distribute them evenly from left to right and top to bottom. I then fill in the blank areas with smaller ones. Hope this is useful!

Fred is an Elder at the First Christian Church in Lansing, Michigan and a former president of the Michigan Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). This article originally appeared on Grease and Sugar Monthly, his personal blog. We've reprinted it here for your convenience.

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