Remembering Family Christmas Trees

By Mike Steely

As I get older, I think about past holidays and remember many Christmas trees. Throughout my life, my family has always had a tree of one sort or another.

I remember my stepfather and mother would take the family out to a tree farm and cut or have cut a live tree before taking it home in the car’s trunk or on the roof and decorating it with lights and ornaments. Sometimes we’d string popcorn and wrap it around the tree.

As kids we’d beg to open one present on Christmas Eve, a tradition my own children carried on later. I recall playing one of the Three Kings in a Christmas play in a church event when I was small.

I spent some of my teen years in Florida when my family moved and I remember how odd I found it to have a tree inside the house there. Back then I think the tree was artificial and I don’t remember our neighbors decorating the outside of their homes.

My wife, sons and I have had all kinds of Christmas trees. We still have one of them planted in our backyard. This evergreen tree came from our brief stay in California and it has struggled to stay alive in Tennessee weather but is now about 9 feet tall.

Over the years we’ve had real and artificial trees and each member of the family has a special decoration representing them or something from their past. Some are handmade by relatives.

This year we bought a cut tree from a supermarket and hauled it home in the back of my old pickup truck. Then we looked for and finally found a tree stand we’d stored away. I cut about a foot off the tree’s trunk so it would fit in the living room and placed the tree in the stand, tying it off near the top to two hooks on the ceiling normally used to hang houseplants.

We searched through the many lights and finally found a string that worked and was long enough for the fairly tall and fat tree. I had to add two smaller strands of lights to complete the tree and plugged the lights in to find that all the small bulbs worked.

That done my wife decorated the tree and I added the star at the top. Then I went through the outside decorations to see what I could add to the two new lighted displays, one of candy canes and one of two glittering deer that my wife bought.

I added a strobe light behind the larger decorations in the yard and, a string of lights along the front porch rail. I put a small artificial tree in our backyard and left it lit all night; it seems to add some comfort when you’re walking through the house and see it glowing back there.

I told my wife I am surprised at how many Christmas decorations, lights, table settings and knick-knacks we own. Seems our two dozen or so years in Knoxville have seen us collect things that we seldom use.

As soon as we added the tree lights and plugged them in I discovered another holiday problem, our very active cats. We knew that the oldest of the three cats would just ignore the new live plaything in our living room. She did, more or less, but the two new cats found a new thing to enjoy.

Keeping an eye on the cats and the tree became almost an hourly thing. We found they were more active in their antics when the tree is lit, when they enjoy pawing the low limbs and knocking off the low decorations. They also enjoy pulling the cover of the base of the tree and putting their other cat toys on top of it.

We’ve more or less given in to the cats’ antics and just clean up after them.

The family comes home for Christmas and we eat together and open presents. My wife and I discussed how many presents we should buy for each person and reached no real decision. I’ve discovered it’s good to leave a sales receipt with any gift just in case it might be returned.

I’m the worse person at wrapping a gift, can’t seem to ever get it right. I’ve opted for holiday bags instead of wrapping.

Our holiday stretches from about Thanksgiving to New Year with birthdays scattered among three of us and mine falling the day after Christmas. Being born around Christmas has been a gift problem for all of us holiday babies. For that reason, as a child, I celebrated my birthday on my mom’s December 5th birthday.

To us Christmas is more about family and, because of that, we tend to be pretty traditional, with a tree, inside and outside decorations, and that very important family gathering. Our suggestion has always been “if you can’t afford something, make something.”

Here’s wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas. I hope your holiday includes your family and you are safe and warm.