Appalachia Christmas Holidays in Appalachia

Hunting The Perfect Christmas Tree

hunting the tree
When The Deer Hunter and I were first married we used a real Christmas Tree each year. We usually bought it on our way back from spending Thanksgiving at Deer Camp. After the girls came along-I decided it would be easier and cheaper to buy an artificial tree and use it. I could decorate whenever I wanted-the tree would always be here-and we’d save money on that yearly tree expense too.

So for most of our married lives-that’s what we’ve used the same ole artificial tree that resides in a big tub in the basement for most of the year.

This year I had absolutely no desire to use that tree-to be honest I didn’t feel like decorating any tree. Maybe it’s cause our county as a whole is hurting financially-so many folks are out of work. Seems like every day I hear about someone else I know loosing their home or packing up their kids from the only home they’ve ever known to look for work somewhere else. Maybe it’s cause my life has become so busy that I don’t want to find the extra time to pull out all the stuff knowing I’m just going to have to clean it up when Christmas is over.

I’ve been reading stories about Christmases past-about how folks in Appalachia and beyond went to the woods cut their tree-then decorated it with what they had around the house. Their stories from Christmas past make it sound so simple-and so very touching-that I told The Deer Hunter I wanted a tree from the woods. He said “it’s going to be hard to find a tree that looks nice.” I said “I don’t care what it looks like-I just want a real tree that we go out and find.” He said he knew where there was a whole holler of white pines-surely we could find something there.

chestnut oak acorns
As we trudged up the steep ridge behind our house-I found chestnut oak acorns;

old barbed wire fence
The Deer Hunter pointed out an old fence line to me. It always amazes me when he knows more about the land here than I do-even though it’s my homeplace; (you can see the tree has taken over the barbwire)

snow at high elevation

at the higher elevation we saw traces of the small snow our area got last week, still hanging on;

old hard wood stump
we saw evidence of Papaw Wade and his chain saw-and wondered if this hardwood was cut to get a coon out or for firewood.

studying about the tree
Mostly we did lots of studying about which tree would be the best. The Deer Hunter finally decided the best way to go-was to use the top out of a bigger tree.

We finally decided on a tree-he cut it down-and

free christmas tree
we headed for home. Once we were back in the yard he raised it up-and we both busted out laughing. It was so pitiful looking-it looked fine in the woods but somehow once it was home it was hilarious. We both said Chitter would take one look at it and say “really?”

As we laughed at the tree-and at us-he said “what about that one?” There was an almost perfect tree growing right above the house. After all our traipsing through the woods-the best tree was there all along waiting on us just outside the edge of the yard.

The tree is standing in the living room-I’m going to try my hand at making some of those old time decorations I’ve been reading about-I’ll let you know how it goes.


chitters tree

p.s. Chitter was so impressed with our tree-when she got home that night-she took her saw-zall and her Daddy’s headlamp and went out and got a tree for her room too.


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  • Reply
    December 1, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Oh my gosh – this is so funny! You are so lucky to have all that beautiful land around you!

  • Reply
    December 13, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Love it! Last year, we decided to cut a tree on our property as well, and decided on a small, struggling hemlock. We called it our Charlie Brown tree…but I loved that tree!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 13, 2010 at 8:03 am

    What a great story……and the moral of the story is…whatever we need is closer than we think!

  • Reply
    December 12, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    We bought live trees for years. My recent house construction requires me to use the fake one. As a child, my Grandmas house always had a cedar tree. We don’t have many pines in our area, and cedars are considered a nuisance. But, growing up, it was a Christmas tree! The smell of a cedar is stronger than most pines. The ends of the branches are a little weak for heavy decorations. It did seem to hold those candy canes just fine. All the grandkids got one candy cane. We had to wait til after Christmas dinner though.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    December 12, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Love your post, Tipper. I’ve already got my popcorn cranberry chain on out tree — along with lots of handmade ornaments from past years.

  • Reply
    December 12, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Guess it just goes to show how much fun Christmas “can” be when you look at it from a different perspective. I can’t wait to see your tree and your homemade ornaments.
    And you have to show Chitter’s tree, too!

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    December 12, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Before the days of our artificial tree, and when we lived on our farm, we would always go out and get our own tree. Some were very beautiful, some quite comical, but we loved them all and it’s those memories we keep and makes us smile.

  • Reply
    December 12, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Enjoyed reading your tree hunting adventure. Brought back alot of memories. Have had several types of trees thru the years but the the live ones were the best.

  • Reply
    December 12, 2010 at 11:03 am

    What a great post!
    For the last few years I’ve been reading about Christmases past in Appalachia and have been slowly bringing the simplicity and focus of family in to our Christmases.
    I started this season out with endless amounts of Christmas Spirit only to have it crushed by hardship – our recent paychecks and saved Christmas money went to wheat seed and tractor fuel.
    I kept dwelling on the the disappointment of no presents and the absence of the grand supper I had planned and not on the romantic simplicity I had been reading about and wished for in my Christmas.
    Last night I pulled out the few presents I managed to buy for my husband these last few months and wrapped them in scraps of homespun material and tied them up with scraps of ribbon, twine, and burlap. I used the smallest pine cones I could find and bits of holly to decorate the boxes as well.
    My husband and I wanted a real tree this year but had no luck in finding one in the woods surrounding our home. I finally lugged out one of the small artificial pines I keep up year-round for decoration. It sat in the living room for days before I could muster up the energy and little Christmas Spirit to put a single ornament on the thing.
    When I dug through my ornaments I found the stash of hand sewn ornaments I had been making for the last three years and I quickly remembered that it was that simplicity and cozy home filled with family that I was longing for.
    If you don’t mind, would you, please, be willing to share the books and/or websites you’ve been reading on Christmases in Appalachia as well as information on old fashioned handmade ornaments.
    Thanks for the great post!

  • Reply
    December 12, 2010 at 8:02 am

    That’s great! I hope you can post a picture of what the tree looks like after is is decorated. I would love to be able to do that, but we simply don’t have many pines growing wild around here. I also have been using an artificial tree for the past few years to save money. The kids hate it but I use it as a lesson in budgeting & try to show them that sometimes you have to make due with what yo have & that Christmas is about the birth of our savior Jesus Christ & that it really doesn’t matter what the tree looks like.

  • Reply
    December 12, 2010 at 6:10 am

    Even though we live an ocean apart, you brought back sweet memories of my childhood. In my childhood and adolescence, we’d only decorate a real tree. Fir trees were protected by law and we weren’t allowed to go out in the woods and cut one down.It was usually a pine tree or a cypress tree as it never loses its leaves in winter.
    Well, my mum hated cypress trees because they reminded her of cemeteries, so dad would get us the best pine tree in the area. Following the family tradition, my first Christmas tree in my married life was a real pine tree.
    But as you say, life gets busy and hectic so in the past 15 years or so, I only decorate artificial trees, but I choose the ones which look like real 🙂
    Nowadays we can get real fir trees for Christmas but they are terribly expensive.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    December 12, 2010 at 1:54 am

    That’s what I’m talking about….
    in my email…In the fifth picture the ground pine or ground cedar….(a club moss)…this is what we lost after the pine canopy was lost after having to sell our pines due to beetle infestation….I treasured that ground pine (or cedar)..(I think there are about three different types of this club moss…Ours was the little flat type…some grows straight up like a mini pine tree…This is the one I was telling you about that was on the threatened species list in our area years back…the one my parents said that in NC their families commonly used it for greenery at Christmas as well as holly, misletoer, etc. You are very blessed to have it growing in your area…
    Nothing like a native fresh tree from the woods…even better that those fresh ones shipped in from who knows where…Thanks Tipper
    our stand of pines

  • Reply
    December 11, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    What a great little adventure you had! And then to find a tree in your own yard? Perfect.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    December 11, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    When I was younger, my daddy and I would go out on the small 40 acre farm we had and find a tree. I think we used a cedar type tree rather than pine. It always had such a great smell. Some of the decorations were a little to heavy for it, but it worked. Thanks for the enjoyable reading. Oh and by the way I swear I have that same tree with the barbed wire running through the middle of it on our place here in Franklin. Thanks again for a great post…

  • Reply
    December 11, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Just like you we for years used a fake tree but lately the past couple years I have begun to look at things differently and holidays being one of them.
    I felt the need to do the traditional way of things and that felt going out and looking for a real honest to goodness christmas tree.
    I have to tell you I like the smell in the house and being all decorated it adds a sense of warmth to everything.
    Whitetail Woods Blog / Deer Hunting and Blackpowder Shooting at it’s best.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    That was a great story for anyone
    who has ever trecked way back in
    the mountains to find a Christmas
    Tree. We always got a beautiful tree. (after we put the flawed side in the corner) That was a lot
    of fun and really worth the effort. Yours will look great with
    your decorating skills…Ken

  • Reply
    December 11, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Christmas trees are supposed to be cedar!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 11, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Tipper–Did you realize you took a picture of lingering snow atop an old-time favorite for decorating–ground cedar or running cedar? Also brought to mind an old weather wisdom couplet: “Snow lingering long on the ground; It’s waiting for more to come around.”
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    December 11, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Tipper: as usual,you manage to find a subject that dredges up sweet old memories of Christmas past.thanks so much for that.many times i have had Christmas with an artificial tree,never having the same feeling about it as the real ones. and now after spending thirty years on the desert,we have a beautiful Christmas cactus with its crimson blossoms,that serves our need,s. how i miss those treks in the woods. well god bless and, and a merry Christmas to all your family. k.o.h

  • Reply
    December 11, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I loved the Christmas tree post. Combined with the great pickin’ – what a treat!

  • Reply
    Wayne Newton
    December 11, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Tipper, the Christmas Time story I posted on “A Bunch of Wiregrass”, is a reminder that in this world there are many “Charley Brown” Christmas trees.
    But I discovered as a little boy, it’s not the look of the tree, but the love that surrounds it in the home that makes it special.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Oh Tipper, you bring back such memories. Dirt and I have always had real trees. Some have been living trees, our first one that we brought with us each year to new homes was stolen out of our yard after five years, now we use one of the many potted ones I have on the farm for display areas. Some, very few, have been purchased and cut at the u-cut places around in the area. A good many were cut from up in the mountains when the snow wasn’t too deep for the purchase of a five dollar permit, stopping at a sweet little restaurant for chili on the way home, or a campfire lunch up in the mountains with a little sledding on the side. A couple very very memorable ones were cut here at the farm. The first three or four years here we went out back at the edge of the property that we rented and selected from the replanted forest where it had crossed over to our property, but that was twenty plus years ago. Then four years ago – maybe five (I’d have to look at pictures) none of our potted trees were really quite big enough but we were too busy and it was too inclement to go to the mountains and too short on cash to buy a tree (I like the expensive ones) we hadn’t decided what to do about the tree issue. One day I look out the kitchen window and I see the girls coming back from the hay field and forest. I called Dirt to the window and we marveled at them hauling a tree behind them. We both said in unison, “no matter what it looks like, we love it, right?” We agreed that we would love it and ooh and ah over it no matter what. But when the girls stood it up, it was easy, it was after all, a good lookin’ tree. It sort of broke the rule about tree getting being a whole family thing but it was all so very good, sisters bonding, and being adventurous. Know how Bet cut it? With her big knife she always carries in her pocket that she can flip out like a threatening gangster and cut a tree with!
    I’m glad you and Deer Hunter had an adventure and I know that you turned the ill fated top into boughs of greens any way. What fun this Christmas tree getting was for you all, a great way to fight against the dismal times.

  • Reply
    steve allen
    December 11, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    You created a great memory with that silly little adventure. Merry Christmas to you Tipper and all of your family.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    December 11, 2010 at 11:36 am

    I can remember one year when we threaded fresh cranberries and popped corn on sewing thread to string on the tree. The great thing was that we didn’t have to worry about taking them off. They also looked nice and colorful.

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeroncom
    December 11, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Lots of things were found on this ‘treasure hunt’ – the best being at home. What an excellent idea.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Soehl
    December 11, 2010 at 11:20 am

    I have never had an artificial tree! My momma bought a godawful aluminum tree one year — the kind with an accessory that would rotate and shine different colored lights on it. No, if I am going to bother, it has to be a real tree. Usually get the Douglas fir because it is full and smells great.
    One reason to buy a real tree each year is to support all the folks in the mountains who grow a field of Christmas trees for the extra money it brings. My brother in law Lowell Burgess’family grows trees and have used the money for things like college tuition for their kids.
    This year it’s a small tree in a pot that I will later plant in the yard.
    Just can’t beat the smell of a real tree and it won’t become a pile of junk on the curb — we have grinding of the greens here to recycle those trees into mulch!

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    December 11, 2010 at 10:22 am

    How fun!! We’ve always had a real tree but we buy it from a lot. I remember in my younger days, my dad and brothers going out and bringing in one from the woods. Hope you’ll be posting pictures of your tree and the ornaments you make for it.
    Patty H.

  • Reply
    Paul Certo
    December 11, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Living in the city, on a small lot I grew with purchased trees every Christmas. My wife,Mrs.Wanda, tells of going out with a kitchen knife to cut a tree in W. Virginia, where she’s from. After getting married, my wife and I eventually started going out to cut our trees. But here, you have to go to a tree farm and pay for what you cut. We did this for a good many years, as our 2 daughters were growing up. They came after we started doing this, and it became a tradition in our house. We stopped putting up a tree a few years ago when Mrs. Wanda had heart trouble and was in the hospital a good part of December. We have looked at artificial trees, but none have looked real enough for her tastes. Last year we used a small potted plant tree with just a small amount of decorations. It was nice, even if smaller.

  • Reply
    December 11, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Oh how I miss having a real Christmas tree! When I moved into a smaller place, then Grandbaby Kate came along, I bought a 3′ pre-lit plastic tree that I hang from the ceiling and decorate. The tree and Kate are safe from each other and it is fun watching people’s reactions when they first see it, but I miss the fresh smell of pine and the challenges and rewards of decorating something you can’t bend the branches on to suit your whims! Please let us see how your old-timey decorations turn out!

  • Reply
    December 11, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Wish I was there to make paper chains with you. I can’t wait to see your finished tree!
    Happy Decorating.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 11, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Good for Chitter. I know what you mean about the Holiday Spirit though, it is hard to be happy when so many are without. We are indeed in hard times and I hope we will all be stronger for it.

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    December 11, 2010 at 8:38 am

    As a small child we cut our own tree with daddy every year. What fun rambling through the woods looking for that perfect tree!Then mama decided we needed an aluminum tree with a color wheel…guess I am dating myself huh: )

  • Reply
    December 11, 2010 at 7:50 am

    this is a wonderful story and i can’t wait to see it after you get your decoratins on it. can you do a before and after for us. this sounds like so much fun. lets see your daughters tree too if she agrees.

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