Since we were kids, our family always had one special Christmas tradition. We never had an artificial tree. A live tree was one of the most special parts of Christmas. It was like bringing a piece of the woods into the house. The way the needles smelled when you walked into the living room in the morning, or came home through the front door after school meant that we had entered that time of year when there was something nice to look forward to. Going to find the perfect tree always started with one of us standing up on top of my mom’s hope chest (this was where the tree always went because our living room was very small) to see how big of a tree we needed to find. They would use my height that year as a measurement (I was the tallest for many years) and when I got so tall that my head touched the ceiling, we used Ashley. Once we got to the tree field, we walked around for a long time sizing up each one looking for the best color, the straightest trunk, and the nicest shape. There were usually several candidates and we would take off our hats and gloves and put them on the top of the tree like a star to mark them for comparison before we chose the one to cut. No matter how the year had been, whether work was plentiful or paychecks had been scarce, going to get the Christmas tree was a day of fun with Mom and Dad. As we grew up, the tree itself took on the meaning of the Christmas spirit. We have a lot of stories over the years of what we went through at times to preserve that, some funny, some not.
In 2011, Sean and I were married and bought our own house. That year we had to find two trees. One for our new home which still didn’t feel like home, and one for my parents’ house. It was exciting – First Christmas Tree together! It was also bittersweet because it meant things were changing. I remember on the drive home from the field that day feeling relieved and hopeful that in a year where everything had changed and was new and scary that tree day was one thing that was still fun.
First Christmas Tree became a milestone worthy of capital letters.
In 2013, Sean’s sister Nikki and her husband Josh were married, and ready for their First Christmas Tree. We convinced them after a lifetime of artificial trees that First Christmas Tree was an event worthy of going to the tree field and cutting their own as a right of passage. After that first year they were hooked. It’s not just the tree, it’s getting up early and piling in the truck like we all did as kids and riding out to the tree field to walk around comparing height and branch density. It’s choosing to spend time together being a little silly.
This year, 2015 was special – Ashley and her fiance Nate were looking for their First Christmas Tree together. Mother Nature gave us the perfect morning with a heavy frost which made it feel like a snow covered December for a few hours in the midst of a winter that has felt more like spring.
The crew assembled to talk strategy. This might be my new favorite picture of Ashley. She was grouchy we had to get started so early on a sunday morning – but when you’re trying to make 8 people’s schedules line up when at least half of them work seven days a week – you have to do what’s necessary! It was worth it just to see the beautiful sunrise.
Nikki and Josh were there for the third year in a row.
Perusing the blue spruces.
Selection is still a very serious business.
After four months of working far apart and barely seeing him, this face is all I want to see every day.
Ashley and Nate were undecided about what kind of tree they were looking for as their First Christmas Tree (no pressure). Mom and Dad chose a small white pine for the second year in a row for its soft needles. Sean carried it back to the truck for them and we grabbed some extra branches off the ground to take home to decorate with.
Since we knew what kind of tree we were looking for, Sean and I took the group to the same section of the tree farm we’ve been cutting trees from for the past five years. Every Christmas tree we’ve had at our house since 2011 grew up within 50 feet of the one we took home the year before it, and I like that. It’s like they’re each taking their turn. They leave the field, get decorated and stand tall in the sunroom December thru January (or once – easter) and when it’s time to take them down, we save the branches to start our campfires on the deck. In a way, we honor our tree all year. It left the field as part of a family tradition, we sit around it and spend time together for Christmas admiring it’s light. Then in the warmer months, we sit around the campfire together with family and friends. There are those that think cutting down a live tree for one day of holiday is a horrible waste.
For our tree, it will leave the field but it will be the light at the center of the circle of my family for a whole year, just like the tree it grew next to.
I think that counts for something.
Every year we go back and forth over how big of a tree can we get and still fit it in the house. It’s a lot like the Grizwolds. We wander through the rows comparing them all looking for the one with the little light shining on it that says “this is the one!” Many times this happens when the most important part of the Christmas tree trip takes place – naming your tree. After all, they are coming home to be a part of the family – you’ve got to give them a name. This year Sean and I were wavering back and forth between two or three trees. I said we should take the taller one because not as many people will ever buy a tree over 8 feet tall and so the taller the trees get the less likely it is they will ever get to be chosen. I rationalized if we take the taller tree this year, then next year the shorter tree will still be there and be a little taller.
I had my eye on this tree. An 11ft tall Serbian Spruce that was thin with sloping branches. Sean stood there and looked at him and said, “he looks like a Stanley.” And he did look very much like a Stanley and once he had a name, there’s no way we could leave him behind. We called everyone over to bring the saw.
It took all of us to get Stanley loaded into the truck.
After that we drove back up the hill to the spruce section of the farm so Nikki and Josh could collect the tree that they had picked out earlier – a six foot beauty named Sheila. Along the way we saw some interpretive tree hauling methods. (We gave the driver a thumbs up. He said he was driving with “camoflauge”).
Sean had to leave for work so he and Nikki and Josh took our trees to be shaken and wrapped for the ride home, while I hopped in the truck with Mom and Dad. Ashley and Nate were still searching, deciding what kind of tree will be your First Christmas Tree is a big deal!
Ultimately they decided on a seven foot Norwegian Spruce and Ashley named it, Spike. 😀
Dad handed the saw to Nate to do the honors. Sawing your first tree is a big rite of passage.
By then the weather had warmed up and the frost had all melted away. We took a bunch of silly selfies between the trees.
We attempted our annual self-timer group photo in the tree field. That botched one on the right is what happens when you turn 30 and realize that your 10 second dash time is weak. Luckily, Santa brought us a remote trigger!
Here’s to many more years of Christmas traditions.