CHRISTMAS TIME IS really here.

I know that because yesterday, our entire kitchen and dining areas, including chairs, tables, counters, stovetop and even part of a couch in the living room, were covered with various and sundry cookies, candy treats, baking pans — full and waiting to be filled — mixing bowls, two mixers and much more as my lovely wife put me through the annual ordeal of having to “get this down from the top shelf” and “crush up this jar of walnuts,” while she put together about a million of her treats which she will have completely given away by Christmas Day.

Actually, she won’t give away quite all of them. I was given permission to snatch up a treat or two after performing one of the aforementioned tasks, and unbeknownst to her, I also was able to pilfer a few more when she wasn’t looking.

The good news is, the ordeal is over, at least until she decides she needs to put together a “few” more because she might run short. Generally, we wind up eating the last of those extras when they are in a somewhat dried-out condition several weeks or even months later.

But hey, it wouldn’t be Christmas without this part of the annual event in our house. Neither would it be Christmas without a fresh-cut wild balsam tree taken from the forest after much searching. Nor would it be Christmas without brightly colored lights — lots and lots of them on the tree, on and atop the house, and spread throughout much of the front yard.

That is my part of Christmas. This year, I was quite organized on the outdoor lights. In November, taking advantage of warm days and unfrozen ground, I got everything out of the containers that take up half of our garage space, organized it all and set it all up in relative comfort. It only took four days to do it.

The lilac bush, which saw a three-year pruning project completed last spring, is covered with miniature lights. A 12-foot-tall balsam, also cut from the wild, is covered with C9 lights. The nativity scene is up with a brand-new star of Bethlehem hanging over it.

Snoopy and the Peanuts gang take up their usual space. Mr. Moose, about the size of a full-grown whitetail deer, guards the premises. Bumble, straight from the Island of Misfit Toys, guards the front of the tree along with a lumberjack snowman. Various other accoutrements dot the lawn, deck, railings, gable end of the house, and various posts and trees.

My lovely wife still hasn’t figured out how each year there are several new things scattered about. I have no idea. Oftentimes, I will walk into the garage and, shazam, something new is waiting for me there to put together for display. Go figure.

Anyway, with the house and yard done, in early December it was time for the pièce de résistance. It was time to take to the woods to visit and evaluate or re-evaluate a goodly number of wild balsam fir that would be suitable for not only a prince, but our house as well.

I have for many years made it an art form to search for Christmas trees, always balsam, on a year-round basis. Spring and fall, when hardwood trees are leafless, are the best times to search. Visibility is best and there is no deep snow to trudge through while searching.

Most years, I search state forestland, obtain a permit and cut the tree of my choice. This year, being the year of no-service, Department of Natural Resources service centers, I went without a permit and cut my trees for in the house and outdoors from private land. I am fortunate enough to have a cousin and good friend with fairly large tracts of land covered with thousands of balsams.

This year, my scouting paid off. In our house now stands a thick, full balsam of the “needles all around” variety which I favor. My cousin has its twin in his house.

For me, the fun of Christmas is carrying on family traditions. Cutting trees is maybe the biggest. I began going with my dad to get a tree at an early age. The tree I remember the best from back then was harvested the year he procrastinated until two days before Christmas.

Upon arriving home from work about dark that day, he got his marching orders from my mother, with an “or else” punctuating the orders. With a flashlight and his 12-gauge shotgun, we headed for the little spruce swamp a couple hundred yards from our house.

There wasn’t much searching done with the flashlight. About the second tree we looked at, he said “This is the one.” While I aimed the flashlight, he aimed the shotgun. It took a few rounds of No. 2s, but the top 8 feet of the tree teetered and then fell 30 feet to the ground.

The Christmas tree was ours, my mother was happy, sort of, and a Christmas tradition was continued.

Since then, the excitement and happiness I feel each time I find a potential Christmas tree, no matter the time of year, and especially when I cut one, is exponentially greater than the time before.

If they had a Christmas “tree-a-holic” organization, I would be the first member to join and darn proud to do it.