Christmas was for everyone on our 100-acre farm in the Allegheny Mountains of
Pennsylvania. Our family, which included the farm dogs, would crunch through the snow to
look for the perfect pine for our Christmas tree. We had strict criteria. Our tree had to have lots
of branches, be real tall, not too wide, and have only one top. Our family was never real good
Every year our "lots of branches" had to be trimmed down so our beauty could squeeze
through the door. It was usually too tall by at least four feet. By chopping off the top we ended
up with three or four options for hanging a star. After wedging the tree in between slabs of wood
in a coal bucket, it had to be anchored to the ceiling with ropes on both sides. Everyone gave
Daddy directions to pull tighter on one rope or the other to make it stand straight.
Every glass bulb or homemade trimming had to be used and each top needed a star. We
finished by standing back and throwing silver icicles that would land in clumps on the already
too ornamented branches. After the meticulous trimming of the tree, we fixed our eyes on our
handiwork in utter amazement.
Our cousins from downtown had to brave the icy roads to come see yet another dancing tree
with one branch here and another there. Every year they took pictures of our tree and went away
with smiles on their faces. I guess it made their Christmas season special for them to see such a
We took very good care of our unique tree, making sure the bucket in which it stood had
plenty of water each day. Every year we determined that this year all needles would remain on
the tree until the very end.
New Year's Day signaled the close of the Christmas season. All the decorations were
carefully taken down and wrapped up for the next year. However, according to Mom, the season
was not officially over yet.
Once the precious ornaments were all neatly stored away, Mom tied dog bones on the tree and
invited the farm dogs in for their Christmas fun. Those dogs could jump quite high for their
Yuletide treats. In Mom's opinion, everyone needed some Christmas cheer.
Pulling that poor tree out of the house was never as difficult as taking it in. As that once
gorgeous work of art was drawn through the living room and kitchen, it left huge piles of needles
behind. Once outside, we packed snow around the base of the tree and then wadded pieces of
bread on the needle-less branches for the hungry birds.
Yes, our Christmas trees gave many hours of enjoyment every year for our family, as
well as for many other living creatures on the farm. Those were special trees lovingly sought out
for a special purpose. Many memories were built at the base of those trees. The joy that my
siblings and I shared as we crawled under the huge branches that came out into the room was
priceless. It never mattered that our parents could only afford to give us small gifts every year;
the Christmas season was always looked on as the best time. I think the tree had a lot to do with
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