Although we are giving up many traditions this holiday season in order to keep our loved ones safe, one we are holding dear is the procurement and decorating of the Christmas Tree. The lights and decorations we’ve made or collected over time will remind us of special moments and give us hope for brighter days ahead. This leaves me reflecting on my own family’s tree traditions over time.
Growing up in Upper Michigan, we drove out deep into the woods on snow-covered roads, my dad pulling us on sleds behind his truck, and then stopping and stomping through the snow, searching far and wide for the perfect tree. In the early days I was slightly jealous of my friends’ Christmas trees that were plucked off a tree lot, perfectly pruned and shaped and decorated with matching expensive ornaments and one color of lights. Over time I came to appreciate our more Charlie-brown looking trees, with colorful strings of lights and an assortment of cherished ornaments collected over time, each attached to a special memory.
Once I moved out west, I didn’t get into a solid Christmas tree tradition until I got married, and my then-husband was just as passionate about trees as my dad. The love/obsession got passed down to my kids, in particular Stephen, who took the whole process very seriously from a young age. When the marriage ended, I wasn’t sure how I would “deal” with a tree on my own.
And so, our “new” Christmas Tree tradition began a bit non-traditionally, one dreary afternoon, eleven days before Christmas.
December 14, 2011 While in the midst of a divorce, the quickly approaching holiday was feeling overwhelmingly depressing, as my young twins would be away from me on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning for the first time. I didn’t have the time or energy to deal with a tree on my own, and had taken a “what’s the point” attitude toward it all.
My six-year old son Stephen took matters into his own tiny hands one afternoon and convinced his new babysitter to chop down a tree in the neighborhood with a butcher knife (there was a language barrier but he was very convincing with his pantomime skills). The sweet babysitter obliged, then helped the kids make ornaments and decorated the tree before I got home from work.
Coming home that night and seeing the beautiful little tree with the handmade ornaments and my sweet kids beaming next to it brought the Christmas spirit back to me in a flash.
The following year, in our new house, my friend Angela surprised us by cutting down a tree and delivering it to us (she knew we might still need some help).
There was also the time Stephen picked out “the perfect tree” in his dad’s yard, and he actually let him cut it down and bring it to our house:
We’ve also had great memories over the years meeting up with our friends Angela and Pat for a tree-cutting party, where everyone brings a forest service permit, and then we meet at a specified (approved by forest service) location, where we can all choose our trees, help one another as needed, and share hot drinks and food afterward.
The times I haven’t been able to get our act together in time, Angela or Betsy have reached out to help me. There’s something really special about having a friend cut down and deliver a tree to your door.
My brother’s unique approach to the tree cutting this year:
2020: Our first year with Bruno joining us, and first year we could fit the tree inside our vehicle:
Whatever your tree tradition may be, I wish you and yours a peaceful Christmas. Stay safe everyone.