Picking Out The Best Tree In The Forest

As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up on a dairy farm.  The wooded acreage was mostly made up of deciduous trees, but there were evergreens sprinkled throughout.  Every Christmas, my dad took my brother and me with him to find the perfect tree.  Sometimes my mom came with us, but usually she stayed home and had hot chocolate waiting for us upon our return.  We didn’t have a sign to follow, but my dad knew every nook and cranny of his farm, and he always knew which direction to head to find the best pine tree.

ChristmasTreeSign

Bundled up in my heavy winter coat, mittens, hat, and cowgirl boots;  I would pick out a twenty foot tall tree and then pout when Dad said that it was too big.  I was convinced that our ceiling was way taller than the trees that Dad was trying to direct me toward.  I wanted a tree that touched our ten-foot-tall ceiling, and even though every single year Dad had to cut some of the tree off so it would fit, I was convinced that the tree was tiny… until we got it in the house.

TallPineSky

Pines native to our family farm are the Eastern White, Shortleaf, Pit, Virginia, Pond, and Table Mountain. I thought I remembered Dad calling the pines on our farm, black pines, but I just learned that they are only native to coastal areas of Japan, so it’s safe to say that’s not what we cut down.

PineConesOnTree

As soon as we got the tree home, Dad would measure the tree and saw some of the trunk off so it would fit in our house.  Next he would whittle the trunk down so that it fit in the old cast iron wagon wheel he used for the Christmas tree stand.  It was very heavy and was the perfect weight to keep the tree from floating and falling over in it’s tub of water.  A big red tub that mom used for gardening during the summer, became the lifeline to our tree when it was filled with water, and kept full during the week the tree was up.  Our tree was not going to dry out!

DadChristmasTree

Dad cutting the tree trunk to fit the wagon wheel stand (Dec 1976)

Dad would save the extra branches that he cut off the bottom of the tree for my mom to use to decorate the mantel, making our house the smell like a pine forest!

PineBranchesInSnow

Once the tree was up, Dad strung the big old fashioned lights so we could decorate it (only they weren’t old fashioned at the time).  We were only allowed to have the lights on for a half-hour or so at a time because the bulbs got so hot.  I hated having to turn the lights off when our time was up!

Of course my brother and I had a blast decorating the tree with our mom.  Like all children of that era, putting on the icicles (tinsel) was our favorite part!  We would start out carefully placing each individual strand on one at a time, but as we got bored with the process we would start tossing handfuls at a time leaving glittery clumps randomly placed on the tree.

We never had our tree up for more than about a week because my parents were concerned about the fire hazard, and quite honestly, I think that was the norm back then.  One year our tree came down a little early thanks to me.  When I was in first grade, I had the mumps during my Christmas break.  While checking out my favorite little elf decoration, I managed to pull the whole tree over on top of myself!  Since I had the mumps, and therefore swollen jaws, my dad said that I looked like a chipmunk crawling out from under a tree in the forest!

ElfChristmasOrnament

Infamous Elves on Circa 1980 Purchased Tree

My grandmother always had white pine Christmas trees because she had a grove of them that my uncles had planted as part of an FFA project, and she had a nice little selection to choose from.  I always loved how soft the leaves on the white pines felt when you brushed up against them, and how wonderful the tree smelled when you walked into Grandmother’s living room.  In addition to the decorations, my Grandmother taped envelopes of money onto the tree for each of her grandchildren.  There were 17 envelopes each with a twenty dollar bill in it.  On Christmas night we could take down our envelope.  My brother’s was always closest to the top since he was the oldest and the tallest.

WhitePine

My Papaw always cut down cedars for his Christmas tree because he had a lot of them growing on his farm.  They were extremely fragrant, but I didn’t think they were as pretty as the pines; and to a little girl, pretty is everything!

CedarTree

By the time I went off to college, my parents had started buying trees off the lot in town.  For few years they bought live trees with root balls to plant in their yard after Christmas.  One of those trees is still thriving in their yard and is about 50-feet tall.

BalledChristmasTree

Eventually my parents purchased an artificial tree simply for the convenience.  No matter what the tree, it always brings back a wealth of memories whenever I see the tree decorated with all of my childhood favorite decorations standing in my parents’ home when I return for Christmas…

  • Questions:
  • What are your earliest memories about helping your family pick out a Christmas tree?
  • Did you buy your tree on a lot or go cut it down at a tree farm?
  • Was hot chocolate a part of your day?

13 comments

    • We had a blue spruce or two after I went off to college. I remember the needles being very sharp and prickly!

  1. Great post idea! My mom’s friend from college and her husband owned a Christmas Tree farm when we were kids. It was always so much fun to go and cut down a tree. We have so many pictures of doing that each year. Then, same as you, they started getting ones from lots. Now they have an artificial tree. Once I have a house, you better believe we are getting real trees!

    • Bill and I got a real tree for the first ten years or so that we were married. A huge leak one year prompted us to buy an artificial tree. :-(

  2. What a beautiful story and post! You sure do have amazing memories of your dad. I could almost picture the excitement on tree picking day!
    We always had an artificial tree, but I have many fond memories of decorating it. My mom used to hand paint ceramic mice for us each year, reflective of something we did that year. They still have their mouse tree and I love looking at it and picking out my old favourites!

  3. My earliest memories? My Dad cursing the tree as he tried to get it into the house – and usually realizing, moments later, that it was still a bit too tall and had to be brought back outside and trimmed again! :)

    Not hot chocolate today. Coffee? Oh yes!

  4. Ohhh, I love this story. How cool that you could cut down a tree from your own property. And weren’t the ‘old-school’ lights and icicles the best? You already read all about my tree memories growing up. This makes me want a real tree next year!

  5. We always had artificial trees, but my siblings and I took turns placing the angel on the top! My sister and I used to always “ice skate” in front of the tree. My dad would turn on Christmas music, turn off the lights, and turn on the tree. My sister and I would spin and dance and put on a performance for our parents. It was always one of my favorite parts of Christmas :)

  6. Such great memories of your dad at Christmastime :) I love how y’all used an old iron wagon wheel! Such a neat idea. I cannot believe you pulled the tree over on yourself in first grade. Except I kind of can, because my dad actually nailed our Christmas tree stand to the floor when I was 1 and 2 years old, because I would pull on it. We always had an artificial tree growing up, so I’ve never had the experience of picking out a live tree. Maybe some day :)

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