Cheryl St.John’s Trip Down Christmas Tree Lane

1800s tree and family

I  don’t know what it is about Christmas trees that I love, but I can’t get enough of them. The tree is the best part of Christmas decorating. To read a history of Christmas trees and see photos of my Victorian tree,

CLICK HERE for last year’s blog on the subject.

This year I’m simply going to take you on a stroll down memory lane. Well, we can’t remember back as far as these early photos, but we can sure imagine being there. That’s what we do after all: Put ourselves inn another place and sometimes another time and imagine what it would be like.

1896 gifts on treeWhen I think about early trees, I think of stories like Laura Ingalls Wilder and the settlers who strung popcorn and berries and made paper chains to have something to out on the trees.

Some people had beautiful glass ornaments they brought to America from other countries, but the common folk usually made do with what they had around the house or what they could make with feathers and scraps of fabric and lace and flour and water paste.

It was once the custom to place the gifts on the tree, as seen in the photo on the right. Can’t see that being practical unless the gifts were mittens and handmade items. Today Guitar Hero would never fit on a tree, and the branches sure wouldn’t hold a portable DVD player.

feather-treeI never had a fondness for tinsel. It was often charged with static and clung to clothes and hands and was forever on the carpet and tangled in the vacuum. But the kids loved it, so we often draped all the branches ever so carefully and watched it sparkle.

I inherited a few vintage cardboard and glitter houses that were my grandmother’s as well as a plastic Santa and sleigh. Plastic was a new invention when she bought the set! She had a whole village with bottle brush trees and cotton snow. I think I must have inherited my love of Christmas décor from her. I sure came by the collecting bug naturally too.

My grandmother had an aluminum tree with a color wheel. Can’t land one of those cheap any more. They are hard to find and expensive when you do find one.

So many times we think the things we use were recent inventions, but just look at the photo below with all the dolls and see one of the first artificial trees! And it’s lit with candles. What a fire hazard. There were also feather trees.

I’m holding my annual Great Christmas Tree Tour on my blog and have enjoyed all the trees readers and authors have shared. It’s always so much fun to see how differently people decorate.

Christmas trees are like snowflakes: No two are ever alike.

colored from lifepink 50s feather tree

white tree

alum treeadvertisesmentfake tree

cardboard villagevillage gypsum compo

I want to take this opportunity to remind you that HER COLORADO MAN is in stores this month. I learned that the warehouses have plenty in stock, so if you don’t find a copy, ask for it at your local bookseller and they will order a copy for you.

I have my shopping finished and my Christmas tree is decorated. How about you?


+ posts

29 thoughts on “Cheryl St.John’s Trip Down Christmas Tree Lane”

  1. I remember as a kid(im 54)we had a aluminum Christmas tree,an Mama had one of those color wheels that went around it made the tree change colors to green,blue an red.Not the best looking trees but back in the day it was a fad that people went thru,they are worth a lot of money now,but we wore that one out,nothing worth saving,then we got a put up a artifical one that was green,I now have real trees,my husband hates fake ones

  2. Hi Cheryl, and Merry Christmas! I also love Christmas trees. We always have a real one, a fragrant fir that perfumes the whole house. I’ve collected some beautiful glass ornaments over the years, and uwrapping them every season is a gift in itself.

    I have a small artificial tree that I bought years ago when I was in university. My roommate and I put it up in our dorm room. Trimming it now always brings back memories of those days.

    Like you, I’m not fond of tinsel, but when I was growing up my mother always draped the tree with it. It was the fashion then. We also had a plastic village with bottle-brush trees, and a pair of red velvet-covered Santa boots we filled with candy.

    I’ll have to check out your Christmas Tree tour. Thanks again for the fun post!

  3. Good frosty morning, Cheryl,

    My mom tried to do something new each year with our Christmas tree. I can remember one particular one where after putting the lights and ornaments on she covered it in angel hair. It was spectacular. Made beautiful circles of light around each bulb. One thing though, you couldn’t touch it or you could get the spun glass in your hands. LOL Not too practical for small children.

    I’m almost done with shopping and now it’s time to put up the tree (picked it last night in the cold—burrr–that’s half the fun!)

    I found my copy of Her Colorado Man at a B&N in Ohio and am loving it. They have just arrived at the fair!!!!

    Merry Christmas!


  4. Beautiful trees, Cheryl! My favorite ornaments as a kid were made of colored aluminum foil. I talked to my brother last night and we shared some good memories about decorating the tree, my dad’s old fashioned tree stand and the year it broke and sent the tree a-tipping. Lots of good times!

  5. What a fun blog, Cheryl. My mom had one of those aluminum trees. Hers was flocked white. I love real trees but have gone to an artificial one because of the hassle of hauling the real one home on my small car, then getting it up and taking it out by myself. I decorate it with butterflies, kind of pretty and different. Have seen Her Colorado Man all over the place in stores. What a gorgeous cover.
    Happy holidays to you all.

  6. Hi, Cheryl. I, too, love Christmas trees. My kids decorated ours this year. We have a hodge-podge of ornaments – some more decorative and store-bought, many handmade by either me or the kids.

    Too me it’s more fun to open each ornament box and ride the wave of memories as each speciman is hung than to have a picture perfect tree. And the kids must agree, because every time I suggest retiring an old, beat up ornament, they get all up in arms and demand that the poor thing be placed on the tree. So it’s a bit shabby in spots, but the love shines through.

    Have a delightful Christmas!

  7. Hi Cher, what fantastic pictures! We always get a real tree, and days later, I’m still adding things and improving the “location” of the decorations on it.

    When I was little, we had one of those aluminum trees and color wheels. Oh, we were so modern! It had about four different color blue ornaments on it, though, as we never could quite match the ones we already had.

    My favorite tree as a child was always my Gram’s. She had glass ornaments from Germany, little houses and churches and angels. Then she’d cover it all with angel hair, which was actually itchy fiberglass if you touched it. But to me, it was a magic tree covered in spun sugar. I could stare at it for hours.

    Thanks for the wonderful memories. oxoxoxoxox

  8. Thanks, Cher, for bringing back some very good memories. For me, my mother is the inspiration for Christmas decorating. She loves it! I finally got wise and invited her to “have at it” in my home, too. 😀

  9. Yes my shopping is done and tree is up! Now I am doing the baking and candy making! I also have some dishes to prepare next week, but I am pretty much ready for Christmas!

  10. Hi Cheryl, what a great nostalic post. Well, my shopping is done but I’m woefully behind on everything else. My tree is going up today and I’m going to spend the evening wrapping the gazillion presents I bought to put under it. Tomoorrow I’ll be doing all my baking and candy making. I’ve always enjoyed decorating for Christmas (have enough ornamnets to do four trees) but I don’t get into it quite as much now that the kids are all grown and scattered in different locations. We’re having the big extended family gathering first with my parents, siblings, in-laws, nieces, nephews, etc, and will have the smaller my-kids-and-us gathering on Christmas day itself.

  11. Cheryl, I love your tree photos. Some bring back lots of memories, especially the aluminum ones that had the color wheel that rotated. My aunt had one like that and I stared at it mesmerized for hours. Good luck with your Christmas Tree Tour. I’m sure you’ll get lots of neat pictures.

  12. I’m having a tree trimming party on Sunday – lots of work but even more fun. For half my life we always had a live tree and then my parents bought one of those store bought (at least not silver lol) trees. Although live trees are more work and probably more expensive in the long run, I just don’t want to give that up. I’ve been doing it for 41 years and I hope to be able to always keep that tradition. My newly married daughter is also continuing the tradition which I’m thrilled about!

  13. Hi Cher,

    The photos of the trees are just lovely. I have my tree up and all my Christmas shopping done too.

    I love the Christmas Tree tour on your blog. You post my tree and I greatly apprecite it

    By the way, I have already got Her Colorado Man and I cannot put it down

    Walk in harmony,

  14. Sorry to be so late getting back here today! I have too many irons in the fire and a VERY pregnant daughter I’m taking care of. She can’t work or do anythng, but she helped me address cards this morning, and we got a few other tasks taken care of. I made us reubens for lunch. She’d better have this baby and go back to work or I will weigh a ton.

    Hi Vickie. Those aluminum trees for very fun to watch back in the day, weren’t they? They’re museum-worthy now. Young people want them because they’re eccelctic and modern looking.

  15. Hi Jennie! It’s a joy to look back on those Christmases of your chilhood, isn’t it? I try to remember that I’m making memories for my grandkids now.

    Ooooh, Caroline! Thank you for letting me know you found HHM! yee haw! Loved your story of your mom. I once got the bright idea to put colored cellophane inside the tree and then the lights. I bought cling wrap however like you use on leftovers? LOL Simply bunched up and layed there – not the effect I was going for. Then I realized – DUH I needed the cellophane like you wrap gift baskets with. I first wrapped lights around the trunk, then I stuffed big squares of purple cellophane back against the trunk in front of the lights – It was BEAUTIFUL!

  16. Hi Vicki! Lovely that you have good memories to share with your brother.

    Thank you, Elizabeth! HCM is a gorgeous cover, isn’t it? Good to know it’s out there. Wish I could see your butterfly tree.

    Karen, I know what you mean. Half the fun is opening the ornament boxes and totes and rediscovering the treasures. This year I added something each of my kids made – and my kids are very very grown up,, so these babies are VINTAGE. LOL

  17. Tanya, my grandmother’s tree was my favorite, too. She even hung ornaments on a thorny avacado tree that she grew in a washtub. Gee, I am really learning how I came by this obssession. lol


  18. Tracey, you are a WISE woman. Your mama didn’t raise no dummies, right? lol he” my kinda gal.

    Gail, you put me to shame. BAKING, too!??

    Winnie, your Christmas plans sound great. I do have my wrapping finished. Each of my grandkids (there are nine) got gifts rather than gift cards or money this year. I love to buy them presents.

    Thanks, Linda! Readers and authors are great about sending me their photos. I enjoy them so much and I think all the visitors to my blog to too, because my stats really go up over the month of December!

  19. Jeanne, a tree trimming party sounds like lots of fun. I will remember that thought and try it one of these holidays.

    Hi Melinda! Thanks so much for your kinds words about HCM. I loved writing it. Smooches!

  20. Hi Cheryl,

    I love this post. It seems to me as I grow older, that I have changed my viewpoint about these trees. Since I got married to Paul, we only have live trees — they stay in our yard year round. Only last year, we finally gave away one of our trees to a friend who put it in his yard. It was finally too big to come into our house. : )

  21. Hi Cheryl. Lovely post. I love Christmas, and this year we are sharing the holiday with all our family in Northern California. We flew in from Southwest Florida’s 80+ degrees to the mid 50s, but it makes it feel like Christmas!

    Christmas trees! When I was a kid we draped tensil. Or at least we started carefully hanging it one strand at a time. Of course, as the chore went on, we got a little less persnickity. This year my grandson put up a seven-footer before we arrived. Lovely.

    Kids, dogs, and cats could be hazardous to trees in the house, so when we lived on the ranch in Southern California for 20 years, we had open-beamed ceilings and hung our trees from the ceiling. Actually, we did that in the last three houses we owned in California.

    For those who might be interested in doing the same, start weaving a wire around the trunk about a 3rd of the the way down from the top of the tree. Works great!

    Our last house on the ranch in Fallbrook was a gabled A-frame that sat on a hill, and everyone could see the house as they drove into town. Every year we attached a simple white-light cross that measured about 25 ft tall.

    After a couple years, when I’d go into town to shop, I’d get the question, “When are you putting up the cross?”

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane, Cheryl. That’s what I love about the fillies. You bring back fond memories of the life I’ve lived. LOL

    Haved a blessed, merry Christmas

  22. Hi Cheryl – Loved the history of the trees! I’m researching Christmas traditions now for our anthology coming out next Christmas, so your pics and info are wonderful. Love your Christmas Tree tour too and am honored to have been a part of it again this year. Thank you!!

  23. I’m still trying to clear a space to put up even a little tree. We helped someone move and ended up with truckloads of stuff they didn’t take. I’ve sorted a lot of it and given it to several charities, but there is still a lot to go through. This weekend I hope to finish up. My husband got wreaths up outside. We have several artificial trees from 2 feet tall to full size. It will most likely be a small one. Last year we were away from home at a lodge for Christmas. We got the 2 ft. tree, collected moss, berries, shells, etc. on a hike in the woods. I made little red bows. It made a pretty little tree. In years past we have had a full sized Victorian tree in the living room and smaller fun trees in other rooms.
    Haven’t really done much about Christmas shopping. I buy things all year and usually sit down by now to see what I have and what I need. That hasn’t happened yet. I think Epiphany will be our big gift day this year. I usually save one for then anyway.
    My Grandmother on my Father’s side had an aluminum tree with the color wheel. Not very traditional, but we kids loved it.

    Hope you and your family have a Wonderful Holiday Season!

  24. What a delightful compilation of trees! I love the old photos. I never could understand the aluminum tree though. My grandmother had one for a few years, too. In our house, I go for eco-friendly so I’ve had live trees that I planted in the spring, trees hand painted on a neutral wall and repainted after Christmas, trees made from a series of hoola hoops–you’d have had to see it–my latest is a pencil tree I change with the seasons. Thank you for sharing all your holiday joy. Best wishes to your daughter. She has the best gift of the season.

  25. Cheryl, I love Christmas! The trees, the lights, the music, the Reason! I love it all. I have a very special ornament that is almost as old as I am and that’s old! It is a styrofoam snowman, carefully cut out and embellished with crayons with a sucker in his arms and a pipecleaner sticking out of his head so he could be hung on the tree. My eldest aunt made him for me some 60 plus years ago and about 15 years ago my mother wrapped him and put him under my tree for me with a note that said the sucker was fresh. It is very dear to me.

    Just finished Her Colorado Man and I loved it. Bought several more to give as gifts because I am not giving mine to anyone! Perhaps someday our paths will cross again and you will autograph it for me.

  26. Charlene, I am honored to have helped you with your research for you story. Like you need my help. lol

    Julie – Do you have a picture of that tree painted on the wall? That’s one I’ve never heard before. You are so clever.

    CONNIE! You bought my books for gifts! SMOOCHES!

    Your snowman sounds wonderful and I’m sure holds many memories of Christmases past.

Comments are closed.