By Neal Wooten
There are many bygone Christmas traditions that decorate my memory of growing up on Sand Mountain, but I will condense this article to only one: The Christmas tree.
It began every year about two weeks from Christmas day. From the time I was six to the time I was about 14, my dad would wake me early in the morning to aid in the task of obtaining the tree. We would bundle up and head into the woods carrying only an axe.
We would walk due north on our property until we came to a clearing on a ridge overlooking the creek below. Here we would find younger pine trees, anywhere from two feet to twelve feet high.
These were just common pine trees and not the beautiful full firs you purchase these days, so we would search until we found one not only the right height, but one with only one large naked spot. We’d chop it down and drag it through the woods all the way back to the house.
Once we trimmed the lower branches, one person would hold it upright while another would secure it into the tree-stand. These stands were green and had three legs, a metal curved bottom to hold water, a metal ring that the truck of the tree slid into, and three winded-tip bolts to twist until the trunk was steady. Then every day you would add water and straighten the tree wile tightening the bolts again.
The naked side was turned tot he wall. We had these large unblinking lights that we had forever, probably since the time they were purchased new back in the mid-1960s. It would take hours to unravel and untwist them each year, but we would go around the tree with those, followed by popcorn strings and garland, followed by those very breakable huge balls, and everything topped off with those long metallic strips called “icicles”.
By today’s standards, I’m sure our tree looked somewhat sad and pathetic, probably akin to Charlie Brown’s tree. But we didn’t know. To us it was spectacular. Like the season it represented, it was magical.
Younger people are probably reading this wondering what was so great about having to find and cut your own Christmas tree, especially when it paled in comparison to the ones you can purchase today and with much less trouble.
The answer is…nothing. Nothing was great about the tree itself. What made the entire event great was that it was a family affair. A hundred years form now, when Christmas trees are 3D holographs and family members use their brain waves to add decorations: it is still the family time that will make it worth rememberin.