Trimming the Christmas Tree

My Favorite Christmas Tradition

Erica Martin
Nov 4 · 6 min read

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and my mom and I are relaxing on the couch after eating way too much food on Thanksgiving. My dad comes into the room.

“Ready to put the Christmas tree together?”

“Yeah!” I said excitedly.

“Sure.” My mom said with a little less enthusiasm, but she got up and followed my dad to the attic to get the big box containing our artificial Christmas tree out.

Digging Out the Christmas Tree Box

My dad went into the attic to find the Christmas tree box. After he found it, he started lowering it down to my mother, who was waiting at the bottom of the ladder.

“You got it, Pat?” My dad asked.

“Yeah, I’ve got it, Carl,” my mom said.

Next, he looked for the box that contained the base and the Christmas tree skirt and handed that to my mother, who gave it to me so I could take it in while my parents took the Christmas tree in.

After that, my parents had to get the box into the living room, where they were going to set the tree up in front of the window. They moved the furniture out of the way to make room for the tree.

First we had to get everything out of the box and sort it all out. All the Christmas tree parts had to be there — all the branches, the topper, the rings that went around the pole, the pole that the branches fit into. Dad turned on a local station that was playing Christmas music to make it more fun, and I started humming as I worked.

One of the Christmas trees we put up when I was growing up.

Time to start setting the Christmas tree up

“Okay, I think everything’s sorted out,” my mother said.

“Okay, let’s get the pole into the base then,” my dad said. They screwed the pole together and put it in the base. My mom screwed the screws in that were supposed to hold the pole in place.

“Does that look straight to you, Carl?” she said.

My dad looked at it. “Yeah, I think it’s pretty straight.”

Now it was time to start putting the different branches into the pole. But first we would have to put the rings around it so you couldn’t see the pole — it made it look more like an actual tree. That was easy to do — it only took a few minutes to slide all the rings down the pole. Then it was time for me to start handing my parents the different branches that went at the top of the tree. Once they got down to a certain height, I could start putting branches on myself. Once we got to the very bottom of the tree and the last branch had been put in, it was time to put the Christmas lights on. But first, we needed to test the strings.

Testing and Stringing the Christmas Lights

Another Christmas tree.

I plugged in the first string of Christmas lights. “Yep, this one works.”

“Good,” my dad said. I handed it to him.

My mom tested another string. It didn’t light up. “This one doesn’t appear to be working.”

“Okay, let’s take a look at that one and see if any bulbs are loose,” my dad said. He made sure each bulb was tight, then tried the string again. It lit up this time. “Looks like we fixed it,”

he said. Each string of lights got tested; some were good, others were bad and would have to be replaced. We would put on the strings that were good, at least. My parents started stringing them around the tree, with my mother working from the front and my dad working from the back.

“Carl, are you having a problem back there?” My mom said at one point.

“Yeah, it seems to be caught up on something, hold on a minute.” He found where the string of lights was snagged and handed it to my mother. Once all the lights had been put on, my parents looked at the tree. “Do you think it needs any more lights, Pat?” my dad asked.

“No, I think we’re good. The ornaments will take up a lot of space, anyway.”

“True. Okay, let’s start putting on the ornaments.”

Putting on the Ornaments

My favorite part of the process was here at last! I opened a box and unwrapped one of the ornaments. It was one of my favorite ceramic Charlie Brown ornaments. “Where should I put this one?” I asked.

“Give me that, I’ll put it on one of the higher branches,” my mother said.

I started unwrapping ornaments and handing some of them to my parents. The heavier ornaments went on higher branches, the lighter ones went on lower branches. Once all the Peanuts ornaments had been put on, I moved to another box. This one had my favorite Kermit the Frog ornament in it — it showed Kermit on a sleigh, wearing a Santa hat. This would have to be put higher on the tree, in a spot where there was more space.

As I unwrapped another ornament, my cat came over and started batting at the ornaments. “Marilla, get out of here!” I said. She walked away with a guilty look on her face and hopped up on one of the chairs.

Once all the ornaments were put on the tree, including the stupid Christmas pickle my dad insisted we had to have on the tree every year, it was time to start putting on the garland.

Putting on the Garland

Once all the ornaments had been hung on the tree, it was time to put on the garland. My dad got a string out of the box, and my parents started wrapping it around the tree. I took another string out of the box and handed it to my parents. They wrapped it around the tree. The process went on like that until the tree had enough garland. “You think the tree has enough garland, Carl?” My mom asked my dad.

“I think so, let’s put on the tree topper and then we’re done.”

The last thing my parents put on was the tree topper. For a while, we had a star, but later my mom found a beautiful angel that we started using as a tree topper. I handed the angel to my dad so he could put it on. “Thanks, Erica,” he said. He hung the angel at the top of the tree. “There, I think we’re done!”

I stood back and looked at the tree. It looked beautiful and would look even more beautiful later tonight when the lights were on.


Trimming the tree is one of my favorite Christmas traditions because it was one of the things we really did as a family. My parents did most of the work putting the tree together, sure, but I could help with sorting out the branches and putting the ornaments on. There were other Christmas traditions I enjoyed, like making Christmas cookies, but that was something I only did with my mother. The only way my father ever participated in that was by eating them. Which is why my mother had to make sure she hid at least some of them.

Now that I’m on my own, my husband and I usually get a live tree and decorate it, then get rid of it at the end of the holiday season. It’s a little more work because we have to go to a tree lot and choose a tree, then set it up ourselves and make sure we keep it alive, but it’s a lot better for us to do it that way than to get an artificial one and take it out every year. This way the only thing we have to get out is the Christmas tree decorations, wrapping paper, and Christmas cards.

Please note, the story above doesn’t represent any specific Christmas, it could have been any Christmas I spent at home.

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Erica Martin

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Contributor to Publishous. Editor of Writers Blokke and The Daily Insight. Learning how to make Medium work for me.

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