The Kirk Family Christmas Tree

Living in the Black Hills has drawbacks because it’s a vacation destination but one of perks I love the most about living here is being able to go into the woods and pick out our own Christmas tree.

The Forest Service sells Christmas tree permits that are a third of the cost of buying one, but my family hasn’t bought one for years because most Christmases we’ve picked one right off of our property.  

I remember the adventure of getting a tree as a family growing up, and I’m proud that it’s a tradition with my own family. I’m also proud that we’ve never bought a commercial tree or used an artificial one. Going out to get a real tree has become part of our family’s Christmas season tradition.  I want my kids to grow up having wonderful memories of Christmas seasons of their youth and one of the ways I help create these memories is to let them do most of the deciding on which tree to cut down, and decorating the tree and the house.  

I like that our family intentionally bucks tradition on the Christmas tree. Our trees have never been perfectly asymmetrical in shape and most have been sparse looking with big gaps and holes where the trunk of the tree is easily seen.  

I’m grateful that my family and I can enjoy a real tree. I consider it an honor to have to vacuum up where the tree left real needles all over my floor, and that some of the branches are sticky with sap. As soon as our tree is in the house, the sharp scent of pine fills the air. Being able to smell the pine and sap is part of what I look forward to, what I enjoy most, and is what comes to mind when I think of the Christmas season. 

My guys get into the tree hunting and cutting more than the decorating, which is more of my daughter’s favorite aspect of the Christmas tree—she loves to listen to Christmas music while she’s decorating the reachable tree branches. My son likes doing things the old-fashioned way and has always  used a hatchet to cut our tree down. He refuses to use a saw.   

We reminisce and talk about each  Christmas ornament as we pull them out of the box; laughing over the kids’ handiwork on homemade ones or ornaments with their school pictures; remembering making ones together, or talking about why certain ones have become favorites.  

Our tree has always been anything but perfect. It’s not unusual for our tree’s limbs to be loaded down with ten ornaments. Every year we have to decide whether to top the tree with the star or the angel, but this year our tree has both because the top is forked.  My daughter did all the decorating at our house with lights and garlands and I’m fine with the way it looks. When my kids grow up, these are the Christmas memories I will have.







If Christmas is for kids, letting my son chop the tree down and letting my daughter do the decorating in her own style is all part of it.

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