When I was a child, we had a real tree and we always bought it from the tree lot run by the city fire department. Since my dad worked for the water department, we knew many of the firemen. This was part of our holiday traditions. As you can imagine, with 5 children running in different directions looking for the “best” tree, getting a decision was a major project.
Once the tree was home Dad would put on the lights. Struggling with the lights was more like it. These were BIG lights, and we had aluminum reflectors to go behind them. And, if one light went out or was bad, then the entire string of lights was off. During the entire season we had to go back and switch bulbs to see which one(s) were not working this time.
The 5 children in the family took turns putting on the ornaments. The special ornaments were attached by my mother and, for years, they were always put up high. Some of them were her grandmother’s small ornaments, and a few she acquired in other places.
We also had bubble lights on the tree. I loved watching them bubble. Trying to get them to stay up straight, so that the bubbles would rise, was something else we worked on during the entire holiday season. Again, think of 5 children, and a dog, walking past the tree many times each day.
Usually my mother and I put on the tinsel: those thin strips of light-weight foil. Of course, with a dog, some of them always were all over the house.
For some reason I don’t remember taking down the tree and packing up all of the ornaments.
As an adult, when our children were small, my husband and I would apply for a tree-cutting permit. Then we would drive (2-4 hours) to the designated national forest. With 2 children bundled for cold and snow (we lived in Phoenix), we found a tree and cut it. Most of the time we found out that the SMALL tree that we found in the forest needed at least 10 inches cut off of the bottom once we got the tree home.
Walt, my husband, put on the lights. Then we all put on ornaments. Many of them were made while the children were in preschool or they had other special memories. Every year, I bought or made each child a special ornament. Those ornaments were given to them when they moved out so that they would have special ornaments for their first tree.
We began decorating the tree in the afternoon. Since we never knew how long it would take, we usually had homemade New England style clam chowder and popcorn for dinner. Sometimes we finished decorating after dinner. Of course we listened to Christmas music while decorating the tree.
Some years later, we bought an artificial tree because we were usually gone for a week. With the “live” tree, we would return to dead needles that were difficult to clean up. An artificial tree made sense. And now we can have the tree up for a couple of weeks before traveling, and it isn’t dead when we return.