My Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown (Photo credit: Elizabeth/Table4Five)

Last year I was about to buy a new Christmas tree when I had a conversation with my son who is away at college. That conversation resulted in this offering (slightly edited for you) which I wrote for my weekly newspaper column.  As I get ready to put up the tree this year, I am not even thinking about getting a new tree–the die is cast–and until it falls apart, it will be part and parcel of our Christmas traditions.

The decision has been made. No new Christmas tree this year. I bandied the idea about and even went so far as to look at some of those fancy pre-lit trees. But I talked to my youngest son, Tyler, who is coming home in a couple of weeks from college, and he said no to a new tree. He wanted our traditional, though far past its prime, spindly Christmas tree. I call it our Charlie Brown Christmas tree, as I have to finagle with the branches to get them not to droop, and wedge it back into a corner, forcing all of its branches forward, thus producing a thicker, more (seemingly) luxurious tree.

Now you may be thinking to yourself that if I want a new tree, I should get a new tree, and not necessarily listen to the nostalgic whims of my son. But, I too, had doubts about getting a new tree. And some of the new ones I looked at were really no better than the one I have, once I put my magic spell on it.

I decorate our Christmas tree as if there is no tomorrow. The branches are layered with ornaments we have received over the years. Homemade and store-bought share space on a tree that groans under their weight.  But the stars of the show are all the decorations that both my sons have made over the years, carefully wrapped in tissue until they are brought out  to be placed lovingly on the tree.

Macaroni sprayed gold and arranged in wreath shapes, reindeer made from those old large Christmas light bulbs with antlers shaped out of chenille pipe cleaners, sleighs cleverly fashioned from popsicle sticks, tissue paper stained glass bells and stars, and pinecones with glitter galore will adorn our tree again this year. Of course we have a million other ornaments, each imbued with memories, or just purchased because we liked them. But really, our tree, like yours, is just an excuse to walk down memory lane for a few weeks in the dark bleak midwinter.

In honour of our cat, we don’t put tinsel on our tree, as a choking cat is not a festive thing to see—and as the rest of the members of my family are quite taken with Kitty Bob, I make this exception without much regret. But if that cat does to the tree what he did to the tree last year, one of his lives is going to be threatened. Thankfully a teddy bear took the brunt of his indiscretion and could be thrown in the washing machine, but I was none too happy.

On a more festive note, once I wrestle the lights onto my “old” un-pre-lit tree, the rest is gravy.  At one time I made my husband do this job, as I found it frustrating. Now I just wind the lights around the tree in a “come what may” fashion, and they actually look better than if I do it carefully. I have learned over the years that by dressing the tree with about a thousand ornaments, those obnoxious wires will effectively be hidden from sight.

A Christmas tree, no matter how battered, is the repository of memories past, present, and future. Maybe next year I will get a fancy dancey pre-lit tree that has all its branches, but this year I will be happy with what I have.

(Note: 1. This is next year, and I will not be getting a fancy dancey pre-lit tree. 2. The cat did not do the unspeakable to the tree last year.)

What traditions do you have that cannot be broken?

English: Closeup of a string of decorative Chr...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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  1. Oh yes, no tree is ready until it is ‘cat-proofed’ at our home either ~ that and it must have all the hand-made ornaments from the boys as well as white lights that twinkle and the angel that I bought the first year we were married which is not fancy, but a tradition. For me, tradition is numero uno…guess that’s why we’re blog friends huh? Well, that and the love of sparkles! xo

    • what could be more sparkly than a Christmas tree? I remember when my kids were little and the whole bottom third of the tree was decorated

      • Big smile…and head nodding in understanding! :) I always put special kitty treats on the bottom part of the tree so that the ‘girls’ feel like part of the family and so I don’t feel badly if something gets broken! I have a little creche that I made in 2nd grade, made of popsicle sticks, peanuts, felt and an egg carton for the baby’s bed. Little Baby Jesus always goes missing every year b/c our kitten takes him out to play hide and seek! But I still continue to put him back every morning so that she can find hide him under the tree skirt again! :)

      • you are adorable–my cat is jealous

      • I am sure I could make one for your kitty! :) I just hope mine doesn’t ever eat the peanut ~ it’s more than 30 years old! blech! :)

      • brings back shades of “Found a Peanut”

  2. Loved reading about your Christmas tree. Your kids are obviously very fond of it, and nostalgia is a good thing. :)

  3. We have an ornament exchange the first weekend in December to kick off the festive season. Sometimes homemade, sometimes store bought, always with the recipient in mind. This year we’re at the cottage with the kids and grandchild, for ornament exchange, so we are adding a change of venue to this old tradition.

    I love your Christmas tree Lou, I agree with Ty.

    • thanks Peg–and thanks to the pretty ornaments you have given me over the year, it is not hard to dress up the spindly branches

  4. Can’t wait to see your decorated tree weighed down with all your ornaments. do post a photo soon!!

    • I would if I could–my son should be home from college in a week or so–I will have him help me.

  5. Haha I love the memories of your Christmas tree this is gorgeous :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

    • thank you–study hard–Christmas is coming (I too am doing my homework–though there are no exams)

  6. I’m with you on just quickly wrapping the lights around the tree and not worrying about making them all even and fixed carefully to each branch. I hate the damn things!! We still have all the ornaments that each of our boys made too (they are my favourites), and we actually bought them each a mini tree a few years ago to display their own ornaments on. Each year I get them each a new ornament for their trees and then when they move out they will each have a collection of ornaments to start them off in their own home.

  7. I hated putting lights on my tree, such a pain. I gave up and a few years ago decided against using lights any more, yes, it’s true that I did so to save on utilities, but the stress relief has been all worth it.

    • now there is a solution–but I do like a few lights and I still do the trick I did as a little girl–I take my glasses off and all the lights have a huge haze around them because I am so near-sighted (it was hard to do this when I wore contacts!)

      • Now that is perfect, when I wore glasses there would more more than just a little haze, it would have all blended in together.

      • yeah, me too–much more fun with coloured lights!

      • I just read your November round up and was wondering if you follow: Heidi @ lightlycrunchy–you would love her unless of course you are already following her

  8. Your tree sounds like ours! Me and the kids put ours up today, and we had the same conversation we’ve had every year for the last few years, where we talk about how we would really like to have a real tree, but then come back to saying that this is our tree and we love it. We have the usual mish mash of homemade ornaments and Disney ones that say “Baby’s 1st Christmas” and all that kind of thing!

    Our tradition is that on Christmas Eve, just before they go to bed we read The Night Before Christmas. My two are going to be 14 and 11 this Christmas, so I’m sure they’ll just be humoring me by letting me read it to them!

    • I love a live tree–but have trouble keeping it “live” enough for Christmas–
      I love your tradition–think I will make my 21 and 26 year olds listen to me read it to them–think I will have any luck? Maybe if I offer them a beer——

      • Well at least make the drink Christmassy like mulled wine (not sure if you have that in the States), or eggnog…or a brandy.

      • how about eggnog and rum — or mulled wine would work too–I am from Canada–but we are pretty darn close to the States

      • Oh sorry, recently I keep accusing people from Canada of being in the States, well you’re the second one anyway, both times it’s been taken rather well considering that’s a bit of a no-no! I’m practising my song ready for your party though, so hopefully that will make up for it…or make it worse…I’m not sure which yet!

      • I don’t mind being mistaken for an American at all–and I am so looking forward to your performance–it should be fun.

  9. I enjoyed the learning about your family’s memories iof the christmas tree. So nice. Lovely homage to a stalwart tree. And bravo to the cat for not urinating on the tree.

  10. It’s nice that your son wanted the ‘Charlie Brown’ tree…We did buy a smaller pre-lit tree a couple of years ago…but we will never buy a new creche..My husband made a very simple one when our children were very small and at the time he made it just out of some spare plywood that he had..and when it came time to paint it we couldn’t afford to go and buy any different colours so the sides were ‘black’ pain and the top we had some white and we put some glitter in it as if it was snow..(even though Jesus didn’t have snow…we did here) And of course a cardboard star covered in aluminum foil….We can’t bring ourselves to replace it with a new store bought one…Even though the kids have left the nest we still put it up…Diane

    • I love that — it is so special and something you created together–what a beautiful memory and tradition!

  11. On our tree we have a frog. This frog was on my parents tree. Their first Christmas together all they could afford was a string of lights 6 frog ornaments and an Angel. One frog is left and the Angel and they just have to go on our tree. They must be over 60 years old.
    We have all the ornaments from when the kids were little and those have to go on the tree as well. I guess I am just too sentimental.
    Merry Christmas Lou and everyone…Charlene

    • I am sentimental too–I have some ornaments on my tree that my parents always had on theirs – a pipe and walnut in particular are very old and fragile.
      The frog must be worth its weight in gold to you–and the Angel very special

  12. We have a real tree every year – my husband won’t entertain the idea of a fake one, much as I try to persuade him. Its always decorated with the ornaments I have been given since I was a kid, plus the ones the kids have made, plus the pewter ornaments that grandma has bought from the jewelry store downtown every year since we’ve been married. Every ornament has a story. And no tinsel here, either. Have you ever seen a cat with tinsel hanging from it’s backside? I have. shudder.

    • not a pretty picture is it–yuck!
      I love a real tree–one may be in my future when my Charlie Brown tree can’t be propped up again
      Ornaments hold such a special place–they hold so many memories

  13. We still have cardboard trees made with spray-painted rotini pasta from 25 years ago; and cardboard bells with only a few grains of glitter left on them, and with our son’s name scrawled in palsied letters on the back. We love our ornaments and the stories and memories they help us recall. I know of many old people who don’t put a tree up any more, but I know I won’t be one of them.

    • me either – cannot imagine not having a tree–thanks for sharing your memories — the stories they hold are precious

  14. We sometimes change from our artificial tree to a live one but what never changes are the ornaments. Some were my grandmothers, one’s made by the children when they were small and now I have my mother’s included. It’s a true tree of family, memories and love..

  15. We’ve had the same tree for years and even though it’s a bit tattered I’ve become really fond of it. It’s the ornaments that I find invaluable because they have been made by the children over the years and now that they’re all gown up Christmas becomes a memory-fest to them – I love it! ;)

    • sometime I am late putting up my tree and could just kick myself because the ornaments represent such vivid memories that I wish to capture for more than a couple of weeks
      -glad to find someone else with a tattered but well loved tree made beautiful by our ornaments

  16. Since getting out of a not-so-nice marriage this year, I am excited about getting a new tree and staring a new tradition. I will, however, decorate that tree with ornaments from my past that really have meaning to me. It will be a nice blend of Christmas past and Christmas future. :)

    • A nice way to start fresh and new with your own traditions and some good ones carried over from the past–happy decorating!

  17. [...] My Charlie Brown Christmas Tree (onthehomefrontandbeyond.wordpress.com) [...]

  18. What a great description of your tree. Yours sounds very much like ours with homemade and store bought ornaments and strands of lights everywhich way. I am glad you are looking out for Kitty Bob’s health and foregoing the tinsel.

    • thank you–our trees make us happy, don’t they–who needs designer trees, or even trees with all their branches

  19. I love when kids don’t want to break traditions.. it is what makes it “home” — very sweet post

  20. This is exactly why my family hasn’t updated our old Christmas tree either. We thought about getting a new one last year but in the end, figured it was too much hassle and we liked the smaller size of it anyways. Easier for us kids to decorate too since we’re all short (my sister is the tallest at 5’4″). Glad you guys have found the value in keeping your old tree around as well. ;)

    • I know, I am glad we did – happy to get your perspective–makes me believe it is the right choice
      unlike you – I come from a tall family–I am the shortest at 5’6″

  21. I also especially enjoy the old decorations and ornaments that hold special memories. They are the best!

  22. Ah, the tyranny of kids and holiday traditions! My kids have opinions about what kind of lights I use (colored or white) and what we eat and a variety of other little holiday decisions…but I admit when they’re with us for Christmas I want it to feel like home, and the Christmas of their childhoods, so I’m as bad as they are…all hostage to tradition! The good old days!
    I think it’s charming that you use your old tree and decorate it with kid ornaments…me too! If I want a perfect and grown-up tree, I can see one online at the Pottery Barn site! ~ Sheila

    • we are a hostage to tradition aren’t we–but what is the use of the alternative? you sound like a softy to me…………

  23. It’s a real tree at my house, but any traditions that get carried from year to year are special by their very dint of holding memories for you. Merry Christmas! 20 days and counting!

    • I love real trees–but will have to hold off on having one for a while–I agree with you that traditions are special – 20 days–better get busy!

  24. [...] My Charlie Brown Christmas Tree (onthehomefrontandbeyond.wordpress.com) [...]

  25. Lovely post. The Charlie Brown reference lured me in! We usually have a real tree so haven’t got it yet, but the lights are usually my husband’s job, me having little patience. Excepting that I spend forever on the decorating, and many of those are old friends. We even have some little wooden Charlie Brown ornaments, which act as fillers if there are any bare bits.

    • Charlie Brown is hard to resist–as is his tree. So when do you put your tree up?

      • Usually go and buy it sometime in the next week, then it’ll just about last till New Year.

  26. we have two traditions that never change. a big big tree bought at the last minute so we get a price i can afford and christmas eve dinner. it’s always stuffed shells, sausage, italian bread and salad. once i said let’s try something different and the response was like a sonic boom.

    • I know–you start a tradition and it is yours forever–sounds like a wonderful dinner though–no wonder no one wanted to change it


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