Cut Your Own Christmas Tree for a Nostalgic (If Exhausting) Family Tradition

The idea of going out into the wilderness to cut down your own Christmas tree is a very romantic one. Who can forget the opening scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where the Griswolds venture out into nature in their trusty station wagon for some family bonding time. As they trudge through the knee-high snow to the tree that Clark has set his sights on, the son asks, “Dad, did you bring the saw?” No matter–the family brings home their spoils and manages (barely) to install it in their living room.

We had similarly grand notions a few years ago when our first child was about a year old. A group of like-minded friends thought what better way to start a Christmas tradition with our little ones than by traveling an hour north of our Los Angeles homes to a town called Fillmore where they boasted a real life Christmas tree farm. Even better than the acres of trees were the dreamy events surrounding obtaining our Norwegian fir. We would board an open-air train that would take us for a 30-minute ride from the parking lot to the tree farm. Once aboard, there were delights for adults and kids alike (beer for the former, a visit from Santa for the latter). Once we arrived at the farm we were greeted by crisp mountain air and a sense of adventure as we strolled through the farm determined to choose the tree that was “just right” for us. Once spotted, it was my husband’s duty to get down on his hands and knees and start sawing. The sawing was great for all involved–my husband got an unexpected cardiovascular workout and the onlookers guffawed relentlessly at the sight of it all.

We got our tree back to our car (with the help of a very indulgent staff), hoisted it on the roof and headed back to our home in L.A. It was only after we were on the road that we discovered, to the delight of our friends who passed us on the road, that our tree was on the car backwards and the speed of the car and the wind meant that 98 percent of the needles of the tree were disappearing.

No matter. We installed our tree (which looked like something that Charlie Brown would adopt), decorated it and continued this tradition for the next four years until we moved back east.

Since  moving back east, we’ve eschewed the adventure of cutting down our own tree and taken the much easier route of picking one up on the corner and carting it a block or so home. The trees still look lovely, but the stories surrounding their origins are much less interesting.