Getting a Christmas tree is one of my favorite holiday traditions. I fondly remember the days when my parents loaded me and my four siblings into their wood paneled station wagon. None of us fought, no matter how cramped it felt, as we anxiously drove to the neighborhood Christmas tree lot.
Now, it seems, there are so many more options for families looking for a Christmas tree, maybe even too many. Not only are there 10 times as many neighborhood tree lots, but you can buy a fake tree or go to a local farm and cut down your own tree.
Once I got married and started looking for Christmas trees with my husband, I immediately ruled out a fake tree. I admit I was tempted at first by the fake trees at Costco. But they didn't have the right smell, and I didn't want miss out on the annual experience of deciding which one to bring home.
For our first Christmas, my husband and I decided to cut down our own tree, something neither of us had done before. Our friends cut down Christmas trees in Santa Cruz every year and were kind enough to include us in their tradition.
It was harder than I thought to choose which Christmas tree to cut down. There were so many variations of size and type of tree – I was used to rows of Noble Firs all lined up and organized by height. It certainly wasn't as easy, but it was definitely more interesting.
After the arrival of our two children, my husband and I didn't have the energy to make the trip to Santa Cruz with our friends. Instead, we drove to the closest lot we could find and picked the closest tree to our car.
Now 3 and 4, my son and daughter seemed the right age to start taking them to Santa Cruz again. So we called our good friends and asked if we could rejoin their annual trip to cut down a Christmas tree.
"Is this where we are getting our tree?" Josie and Owen asked each time we sped by another Christmas tree lot on our way to Santa Cruz. "Not yet," my husband and I said as in unison we hopped on the 85 and crossed our fingers that no one got car sick on the 17.
We arrived at the Christmas tree farm and took the annual picture with our friends. Then we all went our separate ways, in a race to find the perfect tree. I will never forget the moment when Josie sprinted away from me and ran right up to a beautiful Christmas tree at the edge of the farm.
"This is it!" Josie yelled. The excitement and determination in her voice made it very clear that this was the tree that was coming home with us. Fortunately, she picked the perfect tree for our home.
Owen watched in complete awe as his dad chopped down the tree and carried it towards the car. Owen grabbed a branch and proudly helped his dad up the steep part of the hill.
When we got the Christmas tree home, it didn't feel quite as green and vibrant as the Noble Fir trees I used to get as a child. Some of the heavier ornaments fell limply off the tree.
But my children didn't seem to mind. They happily ran around the tree, carefully avoiding the fallen ornaments. Josie kept repeating, "I picked it" and Owen kept responding with, "I carried it."
I have no doubt that these are the moments Josie and Owen will remember fondly when they think about our family's Christmas tree traditions. This year, I realized that it's less about the tree and more about the family.