This year my family and I said goodbye to a very dear friend. For many years, this friend has been a guest in our home during the entire Christmas season. Over the past few years, we have sadly watched as our friend’s physical condition slowly began to fail. With so many wonderful memories, we knew the loss would hard to deal with. While we all knew this time would come, none of us were ready. It hit us very hard.

Yes, it was time retire our beloved family Christmas tree and buy a new one.

My wife purchased our tree nearly 20 years ago. I will admit that I wasn’t very supportive of that purchase. 

For most of my life, Christmas had always centered on having a real tree. Going after the family Christmas tree usually meant a trip to a nearby tree farm. We would be transported by a horse-drawn wagon to a pasture filled with a wide variety of trees. After cutting down our selection, we were brought back to the barn where we enjoyed hot cocoa while workers loaded up our perfect tree. 

I found it difficult to accept the change. It just felt wrong. It wasn’t real, and it didn’t even smell like a Christmas tree. It smelled like cheap plastic. Pulling pieces out of the box and putting it together felt strange and unnatural. 

I didn’t like the fact that it would be the exact same shape and size every year. It had no personality. I missed the experience of visiting the tree farm and selecting a tree. It just wasn’t the same.

But those beautiful trees were growing more expensive each year. I had to reluctantly admit that it didn’t make sense to spend so much for a tree that we would throw away after Christmas. My wife was also growing weary of the needles it dropped all season long, and she was tired of chasing our dog away from the tree’s water supply. For some reason our little dog liked the pine flavored water.

The day after after Christmas she decided to go shopping for clearance items. She found a lot of bargains, including this tree. It had originally been a very expensive tree, but she managed to pick it up for half of half off. After she brought it home, I growled and grumbled and then shoved it up in the attic with the other decorations. 

But as the years went by, that fake tree began to grow on me. When all of the decorations are in place, I almost forget it isn’t real. Each year we add special pine-scented ornaments. Many visitors to my home actually think the tree is real. 

For my youngest child, that tree has been part of every Christmas he can remember. The process of putting it together has become a fun family event. That tree has brought us a lot of laughter and many happy moments. But now it is dropping needles, and some of the boughs are starting to come apart. 

So we purchased a brand-new fake tree. 

It wasn’t an easy process. We held a family meeting to discuss the “Tree Replacement Resolution.”  There was a lot of intense discussion before the final vote. My son voiced several objections. He not only insisted that the old tree be retained because of the memories it held, but that it still be used in some capacity. 

After more discussion, we agreed to put the old tree, complete with lights and decorations, on the screened-in front porch. After we made that concession, my son tabled his objections and motion passed unanimously.

Our new tree is much more realistic than our old tree, and much easier to put together. The branches are hinged, and very little assembly is required. We just take it out of the box, turn it over and put it in its stand. The setup is quick and easy, but a part of me will miss all of the laughter that took place as we fluffed and hung the branches of the old tree. 

The stand on our new tree is amazing. Once the tree is in place and decorated, the motorized stand allows the tree to slowly rotate, — lights, ornaments and all.  We don’t usually decorate the backside of the tree since it is against a wall, but now we can hang even more ornaments since we will be able to see them. 

The tree also sits higher off the floor. My son already has two trains running around it, something he has wanted to do for years. 

OK, I know, we’re a bunch of sentimental fools. I guess it is pretty silly to get so mushy over a fake Christmas tree. But Christmas is a very sentimental time of the year. Unlike any other holiday, family members will travel hundreds, even thousands of miles to be together at Christmas.  When you listen to people talk about the happiest times of their childhood, Christmas memories will always be a major part of that conversation.

Our tree is so much more to us than just a decoration. It’s a reminder of all of the happy moments we have shared together over the years. 

As we look back through old photos, I see pictures of a toddler putting decorations on a tree. I see pictures of a young boy, a teenager and a young man, all around that tree.  It’s the same boy and the same tree. The memories of both are priceless. 

So now we have a new tree to make new memories. Like seeing the joy in my son’s face as he watches his trains circle the tree. 


CourierTraveler reporter John Shelman can be contacted at (620) 442-4200 or

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