I can hardly wait to put up the family’s Christmas tree!

Published 6:06 pm Friday, November 16, 2012

Nothing says Christmas quite like the Christmas Tree. It just isn’t Christmas without a tree—no matter how big or small, or style — you gotta have some kind of a Christmas tree. And if you’re like me, next week is the time to do it.

I remember the trees from my youth, when we would all be at my Grandmother Baker’s Missouri farm on Christmas Eve. When we went to bed there was no tree — not yet. But, when we woke up Christmas morning, there it was in the bay window, all lit up with gifts beneath. We were told Santa brought the tree and the gifts. And we believed it.

The trees of my youth were often scraggly cedars cut from the farm. They were tall and droopy, and we loved them.

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After my family moved to Ohio we always had balsams — the ones with the short stubby needles. I always wanted the long needled white pines, or even a Scotch pine, but my father stood firm with balsams. And, the tree went up no earlier than one week before Christmas. The explanation being that live trees dried out quickly and caused fires. So, it went up one week before Christmas and stayed up until New Year’s Day. Two weeks tops.

We did not do artificial trees, no siree, not in our household.

I remember some of my friend’s homes had artificial metal trees, whose color came from a revolving colored light that made them blue, or red. My father would not have let one of those in the home.

When my children were young we lived in Georgetown, Ky. and we would all go out on a hillside farm near Sadieville, where two old mountain men named Dewey and Orville allowed us to cut our own tree. It was a great event for our kids to walk the hillsides is search of the biggest, best tree they could find.

As our living room had a vaulted ceiling, we could accommodate a very tall tree. The smaller ones we could haul home on top of the car, but a couple had to be brought home by a friend with a truck.

The real challenge came in getting it into a stand and making it stand and stay upright. More than once we dealt with falling trees before we learned to guy-wire them to the wall.

After our first visit to the hillside farm we had the bright idea to raise Christmas trees. Dewey and Orville graciously consented to our planting them on their farm the following spring. The children helped as we set young pine seedlings all along the hillsides. Unfortunately, we didn’t count on an extremely hot and dry summer, and most of the trees died in infancy. Only a few in the lowlands survived. If I could ever find my way back to that remote area, I wonder how many I would find today.

Through the years I continued the tradition of having a live tree. I contended with filling water reservoirs in tree stands, and cleaning up dead, dropping needles. As we all now tend to decorate earlier and earlier, we have given in to the pre-lit artificial trees.

We have two trees. One is a small, skinny tree we decorate in a nature theme, with birds and animal ornaments. It goes in the dining room. The big tree that goes in the living room is more complicated. Putting it up is always a stressful adventure. It comes in several sections and requires much trial and error to be sure the assembly allows all the lights to come on. More than once we have given up and thrown an extra string of lights on one section that refuses to light otherwise.

But, on one thing we all agree. Once the tree is up and decorated it is always the most beautiful tree we ever had and we hate to take it down after New Years.

We have some friends who leave theirs up year-round. Somehow, I think it would begin to lose its magic along about March.

Putting up a tree is now a ritual that signals the beginning of the season. Let the decorating begin.