O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree!

Christmas Tree 2017

This year we were smart; we bought our tree before the first snowfall. It’s short and fat, and my husband hardly broke a sweat stuffing it into the trunk. For a guy who’s used to suffering much in the tree lot, it all seemed too easy. But I reminded him of the big tree he picked out a few years ago, the one that fell down and broke half my ornaments. We’ve had bigger, he retorted. Remember the Emily Street house? I didn’t answer. That house had vaulted ceilings, and the sky was literally the limit when it came to picking a tree.

One of the “big” trees on Emily Street

Christmas trees have a long tradition in my family, one that starts with my mother. For as long as I can remember, the annual Christmas tree was an event, and a few years stand out. There was the year my dad splurged for a flocked tree, and my mom decorated it with all red bulbs (my brother said it looked like it was on fire). And there was the year we sold our house and had to move into an apartment temporarily. That year Dad said we wouldn’t be buying a tree; the apartment just didn’t have enough room.

Enter defiant mother and her youngest child, me. Since my birthday is in December, I cherished the childhood fantasy that this was my month and that most of the festivities were done out of love for me. So naturally I was her cohort of choice. (Plus, my brother and sisters were in that angry teenager phase; you didn’t want them in public with you.)

My mom with an early tree

My mother and I had just got in the car when she announced we would be going to Earl May’s. Earl May’s, I remember thinking. It was the most expensive landscaping store in town. We just didn’t go there—ever. Mom must really be mad. But I didn’t say a word as Mom picked out a tree that cost almost seventy dollars. I was stunned into silence, at least until we reached our apartment complex. Then my silence turned into laughter as we struggled to carry the tree up three flights of stairs, my mom plunking it with much emphasis in front of the window.

I don’t remember my dad’s reaction when he came home. If he was angry, I don’t recall. He could be incredibly accommodating when it came to the holidays. Maybe he even admired my mom’s sheer strength and perseverance in the face of resistance. Looking back, I realize it was quite a feat. I was eleven years old, and my mom was a busy professional. It would have been easier, in many ways, to go sans tree. But some traditions are worth fighting for. Mom taught me that, and I still believe it today. It’s a lesson that becomes more important with time. Sometimes you have to fight for what matters most.

Because you matter a lot, readers, I have a holiday giveaway just for you! Just share a holiday tradition in the comments below for a chance to win one of these cute South Dakota towels. I’ll be using random.org to select the winners on Dec.18. Good luck, and Happy Holidays!



  1. Jeannie Daniel on December 13, 2017 at 11:12 am

    We always get a live tree Thanksgiving weekend and have a chili supper while we decorate the tree.

    • Mary Angela on December 13, 2017 at 11:18 am

      What a fun tradition! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Celia Fowler on December 13, 2017 at 11:14 am

    A family holiday tradition that we had growing up was driving around town to look at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve (my Dad always found the best lights and even a mechanical Santa that gave out candy canes). When we got home we drank eggnog, and my Dad always told two Christmas stories — one about a children’s nativity play (that always brought tears to his eyes), and the other, Rudolph the Red Nosed Rocket. We were then allowed to open one present before bedtime. It was wonderful!

    • Mary Angela on December 13, 2017 at 11:21 am

      I love Christmas lights–and egg nog! Your dad definitely had the holiday spirit. Thanks for passing it along!

  3. Audrey Stewart on December 13, 2017 at 11:14 am

    I so enjoyed reading your post. My Mom shocked me one time, when she came home with a couple of The Beatles albums. Happy Holidays!

    • Audrey Stewart on December 13, 2017 at 11:16 am

      Our family tradition is Midnight Mass. We have some nuns in our family, so it is never missed.

      • Mary Angela on December 13, 2017 at 11:31 am

        Midnight Mass! My grandma attended well into old age.

    • Mary Angela on December 13, 2017 at 11:24 am

      Thank you, Audrey! You too. And by the way, Lenny (Professor Prather’s sidekick) loves The Beatles!

  4. Ta`Mara Hanscom on December 13, 2017 at 11:22 am

    When we lived in the Black Hills we always went out on the day after Thanksgiving and cut down our tree near Rochford, SD. We’d pack turkey sandwiches and apples, and eat in the car. My youngest was only 5 days old when she went on her first tree-cutting trip. It’s still one of our most treasured memories. Now, as we’ve gotten older, and the kids have all left home, we find that it’s easier to pull one out of the box and set it up. The kids still often help us, but this year we did it ourselves…and it looks pretty good!

    • Mary Angela on December 13, 2017 at 11:26 am

      A beautiful South Dakota memory! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Robin L. Coxon on December 13, 2017 at 11:43 am

    Our family always enjoys riding in the car an evening before Christmas and viewing all the beautiful lights and decorations that other’s have adorned their homes and town square with. The towels you are giving away are so adorable.

    • Mary Angela on December 13, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      Christmas lights are the best, especially when you enjoy them with family. And I’m so glad you like the towels! I do, too.

  6. Anne on December 13, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    When I was young and lived in a Northern clime the best experience was when we would go out driving in the neighborhood and gaze in rapture at the beautiful lights on all the houses in our area and further afield. This was special, unforgettable and gave me such memories of a place where I was raised, where life was safe, the holiday was one of beauty, peace and meaningful. These are unforgettable to me and I know I enjoyed the family warmth and the snow on the ground and the crisp, night air.

    • Mary Angela on December 13, 2017 at 2:25 pm

      This is a special memory for sure, one that’s brought you much enjoyment–and now blog readers, too!

  7. Brooke Bumgardner on December 13, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    One of my favorite traditions is getting up early on Christmas morning and drinking hot chocolate with just the Christmas tree lights on. I used to do that with my mom. This year is my first without her, and I carry on the tradition with my daughters.

    • Mary Angela on December 13, 2017 at 2:34 pm

      I’m so sorry, Brooke. I lost my dad two years ago, and the holidays were (still are) especially hard. Hugs to you and your family during this difficult time.

  8. LuAnn Summers on December 13, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Christmas Eve with my sisters and their families. We have only Oyster Stew and Lefse (Norwegian tradition)

    • Mary Angela on December 13, 2017 at 2:28 pm

      My grandma (on my mom’s side) was a whiz at making lefse! I love eating it with butter and sugar.

  9. Cynthia Blain on December 13, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    There are so many traditions and memories. Some are my mom and all 3 daughter’s making the pies together for Christmas Day at my paternal grandparents house. Mom always made cooked fudge, penuche and Divinity fudge, some plain or with nuts and some with red and green glacee cherries in it. And the homemade Swedish cookies…..thousands it seemed, all fixed up in beautiful boxes or hand made bags etc. by my Mom and given out a few days before Christmas with her three daughters along for the deliveries.
    Our trees were always decorated as a family and we had our German pickle ornament on it every year along with all of the handmade ornaments made by all three daughters.

    We always made up gift baskets for families who needed a helping hand with my mother having sewn an outfit for each girl in the families and getting the boys a new shirt and necktie. My mother would go without to make sure someone else would not be forgotten or not have to be cold or hungry.

    To this day I still put a pickle ornament on our tree each year and I make the fudge and pies just as Mom did but I don’t sew but I do make something nice for jewelry or some artwork for special friends and people who went out of their way during the year to help in some way.

    Merry Christmas and thank you for the chance to win your giveaway.

    Happy New Year too!
    Cynthia B.

    • Mary Angela on December 13, 2017 at 2:51 pm

      Thank you, Cynthia, for sharing your family memories! I especially liked reading about the pickle ornament. My mom has given me lots of ornaments over the years for my birthday, and it’s fun remembering each year when we decorate the tree.

  10. Lori Bonkoski on December 13, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Our Christmas tradition was to eat Oyster Stew, or hot milk with crackers if you didn’t like the oysters. Then we would go off to church for the Children’s Christmas program. Santa would come while we were gone and when we returned home we could open presents. Sometimes we would go back to the late church service, if the roads weren’t too bad in MN.

    • Mary Angela on December 13, 2017 at 10:34 pm

      My dad told many stories about eating oyster stew when he was young. It was one tradition we didn’t keep!

  11. Sharon Guagliardo on December 13, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    Our holiday tradition is on Christmas Eve. At midnight, we fry up Italian sausages with peppers and onions and serve them on some nice rolls with mustard.

    • Mary Angela on December 13, 2017 at 10:35 pm

      It’s so fun reading all these different traditions, isn’t it? I like spicy food, so I would love Christmas Eve at your house!

  12. Kay Bennett on December 13, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    We used to open one present every Christmas Eve as a nod to my mother’s German heritage. I always loved that.

    • Mary Angela on December 13, 2017 at 10:37 pm

      A single gift is a perfect way to begin the holiday!

  13. Cindy on December 13, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    Family time is always important. It’s coming upon 10 years since we lost our dad. It took a while to get back into the spirit again. We have family in a couple of different states but this year I think we will be celebrating all together in one state. Enjoy every minute cause you never know what will happen.

    • Mary Angela on December 13, 2017 at 10:45 pm

      I’m sorry about your dad, Cindy. I’m glad you’ll be getting together with family for the holidays. Enjoy your time together and the memories of your dad.

  14. Mary Preston on December 13, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    We always decorate the Christmas tree and house on the 1st of December. It takes a long time because we tend to look back at Christmases past with fond memories. (No one is in a hurry to talk and work at the same time.)

    • Mary Angela on December 13, 2017 at 10:48 pm

      I can totally relate! I look at old bulbs, pictures, and the children’s ornaments much longer than I should. But that’s what makes this time so special.

  15. Lily-Ann Gill on December 13, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    Our Christmas tradition is kind of silly. My husband and I have been doing it for 19 years. (The first year we had a kitten) I couldn’t imagine my glass and breakable ornaments in our tree for Tigger to break. I would be heart broken. My sister came up with the perfect idea and I moved it up a level.. instead of traditional ornaments.. I put Disney stuffed animals.. only Disney characters.. that way if he jumped in the tree it was a easy fix to put it back.. Then we had children and obviously it was a wise idea to keep the stuffed animals because toddlers love to pull things off the tree. We now have Simba and Boo our two crazy cats and Meghan and Austin our even crazier children.. the only thing that has changed is the actual tree.. (simba and boo broke 2 of them so far in the last 4 Years LOL)

    • Mary Angela on December 13, 2017 at 10:52 pm

      What a great idea! My kids (and pets) would love this.

  16. Samantha Engberg on December 14, 2017 at 9:06 am

    I enjoyed reading your post and all of the comments!! The kids and I have a few Christmas traditions. We like to start the season off by making a gingerbread house. We also decorate the house while listening to Christmas music and bake goodies all season long. One of my kids favorite things to do is drive around town and look at Christmas lights. Merry Christmas and thanks for sharing!! 🙂

    • Mary Angela on December 14, 2017 at 10:15 pm

      Thanks for reading, Samantha, and Merry Christmas! My kids love decorating gingerbread houses, too. It’s one of the first things we do after Thanksgiving.

  17. Mom on December 15, 2017 at 8:01 am

    Merry Christmas Mary,
    I remember the Christmas apartment with the bodacious Christmas tree! You were such a willing little helper.
    One of my favorite Christmas memories is the Christmas you were born. Your dad and I Were waiting for his much needed paycheck to arrive before we finished the Christmas shopping but you arrived before the paycheck. When I brought you home from the hospital it was almost Christmas Day, and I was not able to go shopping. Thankfully, the paycheck came so your dad bundled up your four siblings and off to shop they went. I was concerned and told him to be careful to not let the children see their gifts being bought. He assured me he would be very careful and all would be just fine.
    They were gone a long time and when they returned, they were all laughing and carrying lots of packages! I suspected something was up. But what??
    I soon found out. Your dad not only let your brother and sisters see the gifts, he let them pick their own gifts out! I still can hear their laughter as they carefully wrapped their very own gifts. “You’ll forget what’s in here and be surprised when you open them, right kids?” laughed your dad. Of course they promised they would never remember, but the truth is they never forgot.
    My gifts that Christmas were: Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect to be merry, special promises, lasting memories, and you.

    • Mary Angela on December 15, 2017 at 11:12 am

      Merry Christmas, Mom! Thank you for sharing this beautiful memory. You and Dad have given our family so many wonderful Christmases, but your love has been the best gift of all.

  18. Mary Angela on December 18, 2017 at 11:14 am

    Congrats to Brooke, Anne, and Samantha–you are my holiday giveaway winners! Thank you to everyone who participated. I had so much fun reading about all your holiday traditions.

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