Christmas Trees

Daughter Lise wanted to know about Christmas trees I had as a child. I think we had a small cedar tree every year. I presume Dad brought it in the house, whether he cut it down on the farm or bought it, I don’t know. Mom must have decorated it by herself. As soon as brother Bob and I showed the tiniest interest, she handed the job over to us. I’m sure we enjoyed it much more than she did. They never had a Christmas tree after we grew up, being happy to enjoy those of others.

Our trees were on the small side, not impressive in any dimension. The lights were large bulbs that could have easily ignited a dry tree, so we didn’t leave them on for long. We had an average assortment of glass ornaments and aluminum roping. Tinsel, which we called icicles, gave the finishing touch that added glitter and a bit of movement as you walked by. I don’t remember our breaking any of the decorations, so we must have handled them with extreme care. I loved some flimsy cardboard houses with holes in the back for inserting tree lights. They were magical to me at the time.

Neighbor Tom (Bob’s age, a teen then) brought us the most unusual tree ever. He was out hunting on his family farm and spotted a perfect tree for us. He was far from tools to cut it down, so he shot the base a number of times with his gun. I think he apologized for the ragged appearance of the trunk, but we loved it and told the story ever after. I thank you again, Tom. That was a marvelous tree, brought to us with lots of love.

Back in the 50’s we put up our tree fairly early in December and always took it down before New Year’s Day. I think that was the standard Southern procedure. John was horrified, knowing a proper tree should remain at attention until Epiphany, January 6. He always lived on a last-minute schedule, so he went out for our first tree in 1964, two or three days before Christmas. We were living in a fourth-floor walk-up in Queens at the time. Only the most pitiful specimens were left. We had been married half a year, so it didn’t make a bit of difference, because we looked at it with eyes of love. I realized the kind of tree was vastly different from the bushy ones I had as a child. I never saw another fat Christmas tree again. I will hear you when you snicker at seeing a photo of our first tree.

Our first Christmas tree 1964

John became a master decorator as the years went on. Below is the tree we had in 2019

John and David on Christmas morning 2019

42 thoughts on “Christmas Trees

  1. I love the history of your Christmas trees. We always had a real tree growing up. Mom would put it up in mid-December and took it down at the beginning of January. I always had a real tree until we moved to Spain. They are rare here so we bought an artificial tree but it looks real and fits quite well in our place so I´m Ok with it. Because I don´t have to worry about it drying out, I put it up at the end of November and take t down on January 6th. I love a Christmas tree, it makes the house so cosy.

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  2. I remember your trees from when I was growing up. Beautiful tinsel, and I’m even remembering some fake snow. Did that really happen or am I mis-remembering? Always so festive. Love how you had it right by the piano. So celebratory.

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  3. We had a very large living room with very high ceilings. Nonetheless when we kids went tree shopping with my father we always came home with a tree too tall to fit without sawing the end. Of course in Oregon trees were a dime a dozen and sold by Boy Scouts. No tinsel in our house because my mother thought it was tacky(I have no idea why.) For the same reason we never had flocking though my best friend had a pink tree.

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    1. Ha! Ha! After we moved to Long Island, John always had to trim the trunk of our Christmas trees. I said we should cut a round hole in the living room ceiling and let the top of the tree show through Lise’s bedroom window.

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  4. Your post brought back my own memories of my childhood Christmas trees. It was always a real tree my dad would purchase outside the nearby A & P grocery store. We would decorate the tree with colored lights, glass ornaments, a few handmade ornaments we children made, and of course, tinsel! Once decorated we would always turn out the lights as we smiled and agreed that this year was the best tree we ever had! Merry Christmas!

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  5. What a great tree story, Anne! I loved this and it reminded me of my Christmas trees growing up–we had one short string of those giant bulbs that were blue, and yes “icicles” which my mom put on one–yes 1–at a time and were carefully removed to be used the following year. We never bought a tree; usually we went as a family when Dad would chop one down with his Bowie knife. They were just pasture cedar or juniper trees, but I never knew there was anything else until we had our first fake aluminum tree somewhere in the mid-60s. We would put it up a week or so before Christmas, and mom’s rule was it came down on December 26. I was so nostalgic for a pasture tree one year as a mid-30s something, that my friend went with me to find one. Randy was allergic, so I could not bring it in the house, but I put it in a bucket outside on the patio and decorated it.

    Thanks, Lise, for bringing up this question–what a delightful story!

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      1. lol. They do smell nice, but I have to admit, I hate seeing all the trees that remain on tree lots ending up at the dump. So, it’s a mixed bag. I’m not a liberal environmentalist type, but we did go out and cut our own once when we lived in Colorado. We had to have permits for them and that was a lot of fun. His company paid for it and we had a big cook out to go along with it, so it was a big event.
        Hubby was never one of those that motivated otherwise.

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        1. We watched the trees disappear from an empty lot on the way to town. A week ago there were only three or four trees left. People buy their trees VERY early here. John gets ours from a local farm. They cut a few at a time, but if you want something special, you can wander the area and pick out your tree. He took one of the ones already cut, and it was smaller than he usually gets.

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  6. Wow…that first one you and John had was indeed pitiful…almost as spare as a few Elizabeth and I managed our first few years.

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  7. I had forgotten about the flimsy houses with lights in the back! And loved your first tree. You always make me smile. Or chuckle. Or fall on the floor laughing.

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  8. The first tree was adored by newlyweds and the current tree is a work of art. I like the story of how the tree was cut down without tools. That is a tale to be passed down. We had a real tree when I was young and switched to the aluminum tree in 1963. I don’t remember the smell, the mess of falling needles or needing to attend to the tree’s water stand as I was too young. I don’t even know where people would get them around here – the nursery I guess. I worked with a woman and it was a tradition in her family that they went to a tree farm the day after Thanksgiving and get the family tree. She had siblings so when they had their own families, they continued that tradition and made it an extended family outing, complete with toting along coffee, hot chocolate and donuts. This was done on what is Black Friday now – a time when family cherished spending time together (not at the mall).

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  9. Beautiful & interested Christmas tree history. Very nice memories for Christmas tree. I like. Iam so happy. I wish you happy Christmas!🌷🙏

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  10. Loved this post, Anne – the contrast between trees in the 2 photos – remarkable, and funny!
    I admit to being envious of Xmas trees when I was young, being Jewish. We had a menorah (technically: chanukiah) when I was a kid, but to me it was a poor comparison…

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    1. I never thought about Jewish children envying Christmas trees. There were only two Jewish families in our little town. In NY, Lise came home from school jealous of Jewish children who received gifts EVERY DAY of Hanukkah. Does that help balance things???

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      1. No! Now I’m envious of all of *them*! Lol. All I ever got were a couple of quarters from my grandfather! (Granted, there were a lot of grandkids he would’ve had to “pay off.”) 😜 in my generation, there were no nightly gifts as you describe. Maybe in very wealthy families; not sure.

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