Trees Galore

I’ve always admired homeowners who set up myriad trees during the holidays, each decorated in a different theme. And those who keep to the 19th-Century notion that Santa brings and decorates the tree on Christmas Eve. (How do they pull that off with children sleeping nearby?)

When I was a kid, decorating the tree involved our whole family. In about mid-December, we’d bundle up and head out in search of the perfect live pine, perusing the offerings leaning against sawhorses arrayed in parking lots, tying the eventual choice to the roof of the car, and shaking it loose of dead needles before hauling it inside.

We loaded the branches with Mickey Mouse ornaments, glass balls, popsicle-stick snowmen, multicolored hand-print cutouts—and icicles, lots of shiny icicles— while the Ray Conniff Singers wished us a “Merry Christmas” from the record player.

As parents, my husband and I embarked on a new ritual with our school-age daughter after learning of a farm that sold Christmas trees as a winter sideline—Douglas firs that cost $15 regardless of size—cut down on the spot and baled for easy transport. We’d spend a half-hour tramping along the frigid hillside to pick a tree then spend an hour feeding apples to Milton Burro (I kid you not) or petting the farmer’s dog while Lauren chased the barn cats.

We’d listen to Neil Diamond sing Christmas carols as we drove home. After setting up the tree, we’d make hot cocoa and bring out the cookies while we decorated, serenaded by more pop-artist renditions of holiday favorites.

My best friend from college started our collection of ornaments with her wedding gift to us—a set of hand-painted wooden figures—and we’ve continued to expand it with vacation souvenirs, purchases at historic sites, artisans’ work, and our own array of popsicle-stick stars, glitter-covered pine cones, and painted cookie cutouts.

Though Lauren is grown and gone, we still put up a large tree each Christmas, albeit a realistic artificial version (yes, an oxymoron) with lots of embedded lights that can alternate between white and colors, steady or blinking, depending on our mood. We still use the cherished artisan- and child-made ornaments as we await new additions from future grandchildren.

Festive trees pop up everywhere in this issue. Christine and Patrick Andino set up their large family tree in the living room and smaller versions in old carts and crocks, decorated with primitive ornaments that suit the décor of the rooms they use most.

For the Ohio couple, decorations play a minor role in family celebrations focused on traditional dishes from their respective ethnic roots. (Talking with Pat, the family cook, reminded me of my Uncle Joe, who also did the cooking, and Christmas Eves spent with my cousins, celebrating with lots of food, also Italian style).

Our herb farm experts, Don Haynie and Tom Hamlin, offer variations on stunning tabletop trees made with natural materials to grace any surface. Heritage artisans share their designs—as works featured in our annual Directory of Traditional American Crafts Holiday as well as projects and products—several meant to embellish trees large and small.

Expanding on trees, we highlight the fresh evergreen wreaths that adorn the front doors throughout Historic Deerfield, Massachusetts, where volunteers dressed up the fresh greenery by adding their own sense of style. We delve into the history of the poinsettia plant, a Mexican native and now a favored holiday decoration in America and abroad.

We also tour two historic sites—private and public homes in Salem, Massachusetts, and the assembly of 19th- Century buildings that comprise western New York’s Genesee Country Village—where you can enjoy the outdoors while still indulging in holiday festivities.

However you spend this holiday season, take time to be thankful for those you love and the traditions you hold dear.

Jeanmarie Andrews

Executive Editor

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