Bob Mitchell: Christmas trees changed over the years

Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Mitchell

Apparently, the days of the cedar Christmas tree being cut out of a nearby field or boughs of the cedars being used for decorating are a thing of the past.

There have quite possibly been as many changes in Christmas trees in recent years as anything else.

Years ago, getting a tree to decorate was one of the traditions that was about as eventful as the holiday itself. The ritual held a special place in our family's preparations for this very special holiday. That was especially true when both of our kids became a part of the selection process.

Traditional boughs

Limbs of the cedar were sought after in previous years to provide a garland for holiday decoration because it was the only greenery available in the area that was inexpensive and plentiful.

Obtaining cedar boughs was usually the responsibility of the youth groups of First Christian Church when it was located at Seventh and Gravel in Cassville, more than 40 years ago.

The process included loading into the back of the Nicoll Furniture delivery truck and heading to a pre-arranged spot where permission had been obtained, since most landowners were anxious to get cedars out of their fields.

The younger members were not permitted to handle axes, but if they had a hatchet, their job was to trim boughs from selected trees. Not in my memory was a chainsaw ever used, if they were even available back then.

Material widely used

Not only did individual groups use this greenery in making pre-holiday decorations, it was also the material used for streamers that were hung across Cassville's streets, especially in the area of the square. Electric company crews would provide strings of colored lights and volunteers would wrap the wires with cedar, providing another holiday aspect to the decoration. There seemed to never be a shortage of volunteers to complete the wrapping of the green.

Important choice

Just going out and cutting a tree wasn't always that simple, especially when our daughter became involved in the process. Shelley had her own idea of how big and what shape our tree was going to be.

Fortunately we had friends, Jay and Martha Bennett, who lived east of town off Highway 76, who had a large field near their house that was virtually covered with cedar trees. They had no objection as to how many trees were cut in the selection process.

So, Bruce and I would down a tree, the main selector would look it over, and if it wasn't just right, it would be put aside as a later possibility. If a tree was too tall, shortening it would often ruin its shape. The same would apply if one of its limbs was out of place. This process would go on for several trees until the right one was hauled home.

One problem with trees of that era is they would dry easily, requiring water to avoid a possible fire.

Modern day changes

Today's Christmas trees have reached the electronic age. Now, the tree might come in a box requiring only the limbs to be unfolded and then the lights and decorations to be attached to each individual's preference. Or, a choice might be a tree that is loaded with strings of lights of a smaller size than might have been used in previous years.

It's a complete personal preference these days of what color and type of tree under which presents will be placed.

My personal choice

A green tree, with larger lights than usually used these days, and some garland and plenty of ice cycles to reflect the lights, would be my best choice for a tree. The problem is that these materials might not be available now. If not, they have fallen to other traditions that with which we've found ourselves confronted in modern times.

Different from the volunteer efforts of street streamers across Cassville streets of the past, decorations these days are metal snowflakes attached to White Way Poles, with Barry Electric crews handling the installation, takedown and storage each holiday.

11 days 'til Christmas

There are only 11 days remaining until Christmas 2016, which might have you joining those who are wondering, "Where has this year gone?"

It's also interesting to note that one week from today will be the first day of winter!

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.

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