The Miracle of Christmas – in retrospect | TheFencePost.com

The Miracle of Christmas – in retrospect

Jo Chytka
Hemingford, Neb.

I (we) have had several occurrences of ‘The Miracle of Christmas,’ all related to the procurement of a Christmas tree. Natural selection is the only way to go, so it has always been a trip to the great outdoors to select and cut down the perfect tree. There have been very few years when this did not occur. One year was when I was living in a small (tiny) apartment, pre-marriage, and was all alone. That year my tree was actually a tumbleweed from the ranch. The Miracle was that it was beautiful!

The tradition began on the ranch in western South Dakota where I grew up. A portion of it is located on the Cheyenne River breaks. In those breaks grew numerous juniper/cedar (I can’t tell the difference) trees.

I’m not a tall person, nor am I short; I stand at a respectable 5 feet 3-1/2 inches. As I recall the winters of my childhood the wind whipped along at a high lope, leaving behind drifts that were many times, over my head, now that’s a deep drift.

I only mention that so you can appreciate the difficulties of tree hunting in those conditions. None the less, we persevered – I use the collective ‘we’ because the number making up the ‘we’ fluctuated from year to year as my siblings kept coming until the total was seven.

‘Back in the day’ tree procurement was a cold business. There were no snow boots such as we have now, no insulated coveralls and sad as this is – no Under Armor, so I’m thinking we were pretty tough little critters. We traipsed, wallowed, clambered and struggled through canyons bedecked with numerous potential Christmas trees, until we found the ‘one.’ Dad would chop it down with an axe and we’d proudly drag it up the canyon to the pickup and home to Mom for the decorating phase. We used colored garland, lights, plastic icicles and tinsel. You could always tell which kid decorated which section of the tree since we all had different styles and techniques of tinsel application; single or double strand, globbed on or none at all.

Dad’s contribution was to get several branches of juniper/cedar and lay them on top the propane stove – so they warmed up and let off the awesome aroma that I still love today.

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In retrospect the Miracle of Christmas in those years was that the house didn’t burn down.

When I married and had kids ‘we’ (four now with only two kids) as a family, would traipse the country, be it, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota or Nebraska in search of the ‘one’ perfect tree. We sometimes had no snow and had to forgo the Christmas feel and search in rain and 60-70 degree temperatures.

The trees had changed variety however and were always of the Pine persuasion. The kids and I would use height, as one criteria for selection and the consensus was ‘tall is better.’ Upon selecting, by majority vote the best tree, my husband would cut it down with an axe, hand saw or chain saw. Their dad didn’t hold with our school of thought. Upon arrival at home he would trim the tree, ‘to make it look better’ and it got shorter and shorter, until one year we wound up with a 3-1/2 foot tree, nearly half the size we started with. That year the Miracle of Christmas was that no one was killed.

Another year we just couldn’t all get together on the same day due to busy schedules. One kid was in college and the other in high school, so they finally threw up their hands and said they’d just go cut a tree without ma and pa, which they did. It was a beautiful, tall, nicely shaped tree. Dad had no input on trimming it to look better. The Miracle that year was that we got that huge, nine foot tree into the living room.

Two years ago daughter just bought a tree and brought it home. The Miracle – that we could just all be together.

Now daughter and son are grown, with lives of their own and it gets more and more difficult to do the family tree gathering.

Last year we bought a live tree (yes we’ve gone ‘green’). History has repeated itself and the tree was only about three feet tall but gorgeous. On the up side, it requires far less ornamentation and lighting. I put it outside over the summer and fall, then transplanted it into the tank of an old shop vacuum, complete with wheels (love the portability) and shiny silver in color (very Christmassy). It is now back in the house and 6-7 inches taller and ready to revert to Christmas tree status again. The Miracle this year will be that I’ve kept the tree alive to use again.

The potential, Miracle of Christmas in the years to come is that we may make it back, with a little luck and a green thumb, to that 10-foot Christmas tree that all kids love!