Take a long, wistful look at our cover photo depicting an idyllic, pastoral holiday scene around a perfect Christmas tree.
Payson mother Carrie Chlarson and daughter Carlie are sharing a special moment putting the finishing touches on the family tree -- just like it happens in fairy tales and Jimmy Stewart movies.
But real life (and "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation") is different, because in real life kids scream and pets romp and mothers-in-law come to visit and trees are made of plastic or, if not, they turn brown and the needles fall off and all manner of things can get in the way of a perfect Christmas. In fact, we've collected some of our favorite Christmas tree stories just to prove our point.
They all come from Rim Country residents and they are all absolutely true. We share them with you so that you will know that you are not the only person whose past is indelibly marred by a weird Christmas tree story.
Jay's weird Christmas tree story
(Editor's note: Jay's is the shortest of our weird Christmas tree stories. That's because Jay had the foresight to head off disaster before it reared its furry head.)
So we don't have cats climbing the tree, I took the top third of an artificial tree and hung it from a ribbon from the ceiling on a plant hook. The bottom was about 8 feet from the floor.
Jim's weird Christmas tree story
One's first Christmas following a divorce is a strange time. Singer-songwriter John Prine likes to tell the story of his divorce with the holiday season approaching. He and his buddy bought an electric train set and nailed the tracks to the dining room table -- just because they could.
Once upon a time I was married to a woman who would not even consider an artificial Christmas tree. So the first Christmas after the divorce I did what was unthinkable during my marriage -- I went out and bought an artificial Christmas tree -- just because I could.
As the years passed, it turned out there were numerous advantages to my fake tree. I saved a whole lot of money and time and hassels. Near as I can tell, the only thing I missed was the faint smell of pine.
But I've learned over the years that with pine scented candles and potpourri you can fake your way around the smell issue. I now consider myself a resolute and committed fake tree dude.
Julie's weird Christmas tree story
We had a Christmas tree trimming party at my mother and dad's house when I was growing up. My older sister's boyfriend came over and he had too many egg nogs. He went over to the Christmas tree and started talking to it.
(Editor's note: Although she says she'll never forget the incident, she doesn't remember what the boyfriend said to the tree. We imagine it went something like this: "Hi, cutie. Why don't you and I take a walk and get some fresh air. Oh my god, you don't shave your legs!")
Bob's weird Christmas tree story
When my daughter was about three, she was under the Christmas tree playing with the cat. They started roughhousing and the cat climbed the tree and the tree fell on top of her. No one was hurt, but the tree sat there two days before I picked it up because I didn't want to tackle all the tangled lights. It took me about two-and-a-half hours. I caught hell from the wife.
(Editor's note: Bob is now happily divorced from both the wife and the cat.)
"The cat I've got now is really cool. She taught herself how to fetch. She's better than a lot of dogs I've had."
Bobby's weird Christmas tree story
My grandfather had made a blower for fire. It was a piece
of pipe on a butane tank and you could just go around and burn weeds with it.
We had a living Christmas tree that was planted in front of our house that we decorated. Around Christmas time one year when I was about 13, I was out cleaning up in front of the house, and this tree had some leaves around the bottom. Being the lazy person that I was, I said, "I'll just burn it."
So I burned around the edges and stamped out what I thought was the fire and went about my business. I'm about half way around the house when one of our neighbors comes out and he's waving his arms. I look back and that tree was just smoking.
Marge's weird Christmas tree story
When my youngest son was like 2 years old, I had hard wood floors and I had this six or seven foot tree and he loved those shiny ornaments. He'd go over there and grab one of them, and I'd holler, "Steve!" and he'd drop it on this hardwood floor and it'd break. So we ended up with no ornaments on the tree as high as he could reach.
(Editor's note: Marge was just getting warmed up.)
I loved Christmas trees, and the year that my ex walked out with my best friend, I got this letter from the attorney's office that he had filed for a divorce. I put the letter on the tree and I said, "Thanks, sweet dear. That's the last (expletive) thing I'll ever get from you -- thank god."
Andi's weird Christmas tree story
Armed with a tree permit and a big axe (she thought an axe was safer to operate than a chain saw for a first time user) my mother and I went to the forest near Woods Canyon Lake to cut, for the first time, our very own Christmas tree. I was seven or eight.
Things my mom learned:
1. Trees look shorter than they actually are.
2. Trees are heavy to carry on your shoulder when your kid isn't strong enough to carry the pointed end and you can't drag the perfect tree.
3. However far away the truck is, it's a long way
4. Red coats looped through the dog's leash and tied to the back of the pick up are good makeshift flags when the tree is longer than the truck bed.
5. You get to enjoy the scent of pine boughs all over the house when your tree is taller than the ceiling.
6. Memories of getting the tree from the forest indoors are funnier several years later.
What I learned:
Uncle Rugrat's chain saw cuts trees faster than my mom with an axe.
My mom tried to made up for cutting a tree taller than the legal 10-foot limit by cutting a four-foot tree last year when we trekked into the forest the next year.
Peggy's weird Christmas tree story
I never liked Christmas trees much. It just struck me one day how pretty a decorated tumbleweed would be. So when I lived in the Valley, I used to go out with my friend Jean to find a tumbleweed in the farm areas south of Mesa that would fit nicely on my coffee table. I spray painted it gold and decorated it with mini-ornaments.
Jean's weird Christmas tree story
I have fond memories of the Christmas trees of my childhood growing up in Hayward, Wis. My Grandpa Haselhuhn
used to light candles on the tree for the children to "ooh" and "ah" over. I'm surprised there weren't fires, but I don't remember any. One year Grandpa dressed as Santa Claus. He was believable until my 3-year-old brother Curtis looked down and recognized his boots and said,"Goompa!"
A short history of the Christmas tree
The origins of the Christmas tree reach back into ancient times.
In fact, the early Egyptians were among a long line of cultures that treasured and worshiped evergreens, according to David Robson of the Springfield (Ill.) Extension Center.
When the winter solstice arrives, they brought green date palm leaves into their homes to symbolize life's triumph over death.
The Romans celebrated the winter solstice with a fest called Saturnalia in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture. They decorated their houses with greens and lights and exchanged gifts -- coins for prosperity, pastries for happiness, and lamps to light one's journey through life.
Centuries ago in Great Britain, sorcerer-priests called Druids used evergreens during mysterious winter solstice rituals. The Druids used holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life, and placed evergreen branches over doors to keep away evil spirits.
Late in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors to show their hope in the forthcoming spring. Our modern Christmas tree evolved from these early traditions.
According to legend, Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas. One crisp Christmas Eve around 1500, he was walking through snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches, dusted with snow, shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a little fir tree indoors so he could share this story with his children. He decorated it with candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ's birth.
The Christmas tree tradition most likely came to the United States with Hessian troops during the American Revolution, or with German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio, according to Robson.
But the custom spread slowly. The Puritans banned Christmas in New England. Even as late as 1851, a Cleveland minister nearly lost his job because he allowed a tree in his church. Schools in Boston stayed open on Christmas Day through 1870, and sometimes expelled students who stayed home.
The Christmas tree market was born in 1851 when Catskill farmer Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds of evergreens into New York City and sold them all. By 1900, one in five American families had a Christmas tree, and 20 years later, the custom was nearly universal.
F.W. Woolworth brought the glass ornament tradition to the United States in 1890. From 1870's to 1930's, Germans made the finest molds for making ornaments with nearly 5,000 different molds at the time. At the turn of the century there were over one hundred small glass blowing workshops in Europe.
After World War II, however, glass ornament production declined. Many of the craftsmen left for West Germany. Some old molds fell into disrepair and many others were left to collect dust or were lost.
Today, the Christmas tree is a symbol of a living Christmas spirit and brings into our lives a pleasant aroma of the forest.