By Pettus L. Read
Director of Communications for Tennessee Farm Bureau
It’s beginning to look more like Christmas everyday. The neighborhood lawns have turned into what could be classified as a center for a source of energy sucking devices of blown up snowmen and millions of lights that you could land a jet airliner with if you had to. Not complaining that the countryside has been created as a clone of Opryland in my field of vision, but disturbed that I have yet to put up my half-dozen lighted reindeer and flashing Snoopy this year. I still have until Christmas Eve and maybe the blown up Donald Duck in the Santa hat will go on sale so I can add him to my collection of yard art.
I do miss the days of traditional Tennessee Christmases around the farmstead however. One of my favorite country Christmas songs is “Tennessee Christmas” and in that song the chorus uses the lyrics, ” A tender Tennessee Christmas, is the only Christmas for me.” That is what I think of when Christmas time comes around each year. Family visiting, country ham cooked in a lard stand, coconut cake, jam cake, candles in the window and a real Tennessee Christmas tree.
We would put our tree up after we all got out of school for Christmas vacation. I never saw a Christmas tree until at least two weeks before the special day as a kid. And it would always be a cedar that we would walk for hours in our woods to locate. We must have looked at thousands of trees before finding the perfect one. They would either be too tall, too short, double-forked, one side missing branches, or too many branches at the bottom that when you sawed one off to put it in the stand, a giant hole would appear. It was a tough job to find the perfect tree, but it also was a Tennessee Christmas tradition.
The lights we would put on it would be different colors and the size of nightlight bulbs. For years, until a bulb shot, the paint would be cracked on many of them, which would cause interesting shapes to form on the ceiling at night when the tree was lit. That was okay because it seemed to make part of the atmosphere of our Tennessee Christmas.
The aroma the cut cedar would give off was a smell that was an aroma of Christmas. Today, just breaking a cedar branch while walking in the woods and releasing that smell will make my thoughts instantly return to Christmases of long ago.
Today, not everyone has a farm to locate their perfect tree on and the lights are now tiny with many being white on most trees. You no longer have to worry about a bulb shooting with the entire strand going out like we did back in the “old” days and spending hours searching for the shot bulb. You can still make your own traditions and a Tennessee Christmas can be whatever you want it to be. You can even still keep the Tennessee tradition of cutting your own tree by visiting a Tennessee Christmas tree farm. Tennessee Christmas tree farmers know that cutting your own tree is about an experience, the kind you’ll always remember and add to your Tennessee holiday traditions.
By visiting one of our Christmas tree farms, your family can have as much fun as I did growing up, plus with more quality trees to select from. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture reports that many offer hot cider or other refreshments at their farms and sell natural wreaths, roping and garland in addition to trees. They say that some farms feature wagon rides, educational tours for groups, petting zoos or gift shops on site with all sorts of holiday décor inside.
Besides the sentimental reasons, it’s important to remember that by choosing local trees the cost of transportation is not included in the price of a tree that’s never left the farm, and there’s no tree fresher than the one you just cut yourself. You can find local Christmas trees at www.picktnproducts.org.
Now, where did I put that extension cord for Frosty last year?
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com