Cut your own Christmas tree

It’s December 1 and the holidays are in full swing around here. We are coming up on my favorite holiday–winter solstice!

Why do we start off the solstice season with getting a Christmas tree? Because coniferous trees were part of the solstice celebrations long before Christianity was invented.

Here’s what History.com has to say about it:

Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.

In the Northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year falls on December 21 or December 22 and is called the winter solstice. Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.

I just like an excuse to hike through the woods and bring a tree into my house.

We make an outing of it. We have our favorite spot up Suce Creek. It’s long enough of a walk that I feel like we are getting some outside time. It’s short enough that Finn doesn’t melt down (too much). Plus, my lumberjack husband has to carry the tree back to the car, so we don’t want to cover too many miles.

We bring hot cocoa and orange/cherry muffins to sustain us through our wandering and pointing. “What about that tree? Or this one? Or the one way up there?” Then we find the perfect tree. It might be a little Charlie Brownish, but it’s just right for us.

Light sabers are not required, but are recommended.

We wander around looking for just the right tree to slice down.

Hot cocoa break.

Want to cut your own tree?

Part of an article I wrote for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle a few years ago.

While you can buy a tree at a lot, venturing into the woods for a fir or a spruce can be a rewarding way to spend a December day together. And the best part? You always come home with a prize.

If you choose to embark on a cut-your-own-tree adventure, here’s what you need to know.

• Get a permit from the Forest Service or Ace Hardware or True Value in Livingston, Owenhouse Ace Hardware in Bozeman, Lee & Dad’s Grocery in Belgrade, Gateway Exxon Market in Gallatin Gateway. They’re $5 and available in Nov. and Dec. You are limited to two trees per household. Find a District Office near you.
• Trees can be cut from anywhere on the National Forest except at campgrounds, trailheads or in plantations.
• Know how tall you want your tree to be before you go. In the forest, there isn’t a good reference point for height, so even a ten-foot tall tree looks short. We know that we want a tree about as tall as my husband.
• Choose a location that is open. Trees growing in groves often shed their lower branches; trees growing in the open have a more traditional Christmas tree shape. Ask Forest Service staff to suggest a meadow or clearing the distance from a trailhead that you want to hike or ski.
• Cut the tree 12 inches or less above the ground level. Remove snow around tree base if needed. Cut off live limbs remaining on the stump. You can always cut more off the bottom if needed; it’s poor tree-cutting etiquette to leave a tall stump.
• Use a tarp or sled to pull the tree back to your vehicle.
• When you get your tree home, make a fresh cut on the butt to open up the pores that have been clogged by sap. Cut off at least one-half inch. The fresh-cut surface should be creamy-white, not yellow or brown. If you do not make a fresh cut, the tree will not be able to drink water. Put the tree in water as soon as possible.
• Decorate and water daily to keep your tree fresh.

Family fun!

Bring someone tough to carry your tree home.

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