Tis The Season To Start An Outdoor Family Tradition

It must be about 20 years ago now since I last sat on the floor of my kitchen and asked myself…”what am I doing?”   Scattered across the floor were different piles of color-coded branches and assorted pieces used to assemble an artificial Christmas tree for our living room.

Oh, so many times before I carefully studied the instructions to get the assembly just right.   Blue coded branches on the bottom, followed by red, white and yellow.   In the end I always had a Scotch pine tree that looked pretty much the same year after year.   So how did it look?   In one word…PHONY!

No matter how the family decorated the artificial tree, manufactured back during the 1970s, it just lacked the sort of appeal and pizazz that a natural tree brings to a home.   Finally, enough was enough.

After that holiday season two decades ago I boxed up the pieces and donated it to a second-hand store.   It was time for someone else to create holiday memories by observing a fake tree made out of green nylon fibers wrapped by heavy wire simulating a branch.IMG_5643

That next year I was so proud of myself bringing home a REAL tree.   Finally, I had a tree in the house that truly exemplified the outdoors to me—both in appearance and in smell.   After all, I reasoned any self-respecting outdoorsman should subject his family to the benefits of displaying a real tree—both in the care-taking, as well as in the clean-up mess.

For several years I had grown content to purchase me tree down at the local lot where they were pre-cut and shipped in by the truckloads.   At that time how I got the tree didn’t matter, what was important was simply the fact I now had a real tree on display during the holiday season.   This practice continued for many years up until a few years ago when I got married and suddenly determined it was time for the next important step.

Those of us who enjoy the outdoors sporting life take great pride in the fact we bring venison home from the field or fish home from the lake.   It’s important for our families to see that food doesn’t just come from a grocery store.

Same should go for our Christmas trees.   Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with buying a pre-cut tree propped up and marketed by a seasonal peddler.   It’s just that going to cut your own tree allows the entire family an experience that should not be overlooked.   Indeed, cutting your own tree is a process that involves and should excite every family member at the beginning of the holiday season.

Last weekend my family went to a great cut-your-own tree farm down south of the Twin Cities called Hampton Hills.   Of course, there are many other private growers located throughout the state with similar tree cutting opportunities (click HERE).   If you want the raw beauty of an uncultivated tree, $5 permits are available for cutting trees in both the Chippewa National Forest and the Superior National Forest.   The point is to create an experience for the entire family that gets them outdoors and actively involved.

While walking the grounds at the tree farm the most common phrase I heard uttered by my family was “how ’bout this one?”   In due time, we finally settled on a single tree that symbolically jump-started the holiday season for each of us.   Best of all, we did it outdoors—away from the television and the computer games—discovering the important lessons like the difference between long needle pines and short needle balsam firs.

During the hustle and bustle of this holiday season I urge you to make time with your family and discover just what a unique bonding experience cutting your own Christmas tree can be.   Not only is it more rewarding than purchasing a tree from some discount retailer, but it gets the family outdoors sharing a fun activity together.

I can guarantee one thing.   The memories of selecting and cutting your own Christmas tree certainly outshine any memories I have of sitting on that kitchen floor constructing my fake tree.   Unfortunately, it just took me several years to finally arrive at that all-important understanding.

© 2009 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.