The best part about having a real Christmas tree? Putting your boots on and heading out to find it, of course. We asked readers and friends to share their traditions and stories about going out each winter in search of that perfect tree. Here are a few of our favorite responses, from across the generations.
Photographed by Cara Slifka
In 1972, our family was driving a 1963 Chevy Corvair van (with eight — yes, eight — doors). The boys sat on a raised bench behind, just opposite the four side doors. They were about 7 and 9 years old. The van had no heater, and the evening was raw — freezing and wet, with the rain verging on snow. Our toes were frozen. We’d driven to six different tree farms looking for the perfect tree without finding one we could agree on. We were hungry and tired, and my husband, Don, was getting impatient.
At the seventh place, he and I went looking for a tree alone, so the boys would at least be dry. Success! But I said we had to get the boys’ approval, and Don looked at me with steam coming out his ears. He hauled the tree to the van, opened those big side doors, and asked the boys how they liked it. Skip looked and said, “It’s too short.” Then the steam blew out the top of Don’s head, and he turned around with the tree and disappeared.
Five minutes later, he came back, opened the doors, and asked the boys how they liked this one. “Oh, that’s good!” Skip and Scott exclaimed.
When Don finished tying on the tree and hopped in the van, I whispered, “Where did you find that one?”
“It’s the same tree,” he said. “I just held it up.”
— Peggy Thomas, 75, East Haven, Connecticut
When I was a kid in Massachusetts, we mostly bought trees from the Boy Scouts who set up in the parking lot near the Stop & Shop. The first tree I ever got on my own was one Christmas when I lived in Paris, when we bought a tiny tabletop tree and strung it with kumquats and lychee nuts. When I moved to Maine, we started cutting our own trees from the woods behind our house — but of course, those are never quite as full as the ones you buy on the side of the road. One year, my son said what he wanted more than anything was a nice, big, bushy tree, so we drove to the cut-your-own tree farm, and I let him pick out the fattest tree he could find.
For many years after that, we would trudge through the snow, down the hill of the tree farm, with our old saw in hand and the dog running laps around us, seeking out the fattest, bushiest tree. Then, we’d toss it in the back of the pickup and head home for the best part: pouring eggnog and listening to Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas while we hung the cornstarch clay ornaments and the little crocheted stockings that my mom had made, way back when we got our trees from the Stop & Shop.
— Andrea Vassallo, 46, Newcastle, Maine
For the past decade, we’ve cut down our Christmas trees from right on our property out back, like our families sometimes did growing up. The top of the tree goes into our tree stand in the living room, and the rest becomes firewood. But every year, the top of the tree isn’t quite as full or strong or balanced as it looked from 40 feet below on the ground. So it’s become a bit of a joke in our family to see how spindly and warped the little tree is once it makes it into the stand. Last year, with our 1-year-old, we picked one looking out the kitchen window. This year, we’ll head outside and let her help choose — so maybe we’ll end up with something a little closer to the ground.
— Topher Mallory, 38, and Kristin Mallory, 37, South Bristol, Maine
One year, when I lived in Maine, Mom and I cut down a tree so big, we couldn’t fit it through the front doors of our house. She had to cut it in our yard. Another year, Nana and Grampy took Daddy and I to pick out a Christmas tree. I got to pick — not them! I found the hugest one, and Grampy cut it down. He and Daddy put it on the car, and Nana has a tall house so it fit. Then Daddy lifted me up and I put the angel on.
Can we have a real tree again this year, Mom?
— Jade Olsen, 8, San Marcos, Texas