Christmas day is quickly approaching and like many, I’ve spent the past couple weeks finishing my Christmas shopping and putting up decorations. Of all the traditions that come with the holiday season my favorite is picking out the perfect Christmas tree. A quick poll of my Facebook friends confirmed that for most people, it’s less about the tree itself and more about the traditions and memories to be found in those dark green boughs.

Laura Cunningham Christmas Tree

Latham Marketing Manager Laura Cunningham’s Christmas Tree

My favorite tradition (and memory) is visiting local tree farms to pick out ‘my perfect tree”. As a child we frequented Lines Tree Farm in Marble Rock, Iowa. At the tree farm Harley and his grandsons stand ready to bring in each customer’s fresh cut tree, shake off the needles and snow and load it up. Carol can be found in the tree shed, whipping up homemade wreaths with fancy bows, pine cones and glittering bulbs. When I think of visiting the tree farm as a child I remember the fresh pine smell of that shed and the sweet cinnamon cider ready to warm us after our hike through the farm. Now as an adult, my husband and I continue the tradition visiting another local family farm – Carlson Tree farm in Latimer, Iowa. We enjoy the opportunity to support another local North Iowa farm family with our holiday purchase.

For some families, the tradition is in the decorations. My unofficial Facebook poll revealed so many great ideas to celebrate and create memories through decorations, I thought a few were worth sharing:

  • Beth R purchases an ornament representative of every trip or family vacation her family goes on. It’s a great way to remember the memories created on each trip and celebrate the time spent adventuring together.
  • Cassie H commented she picks out a new ornament each year that her kids will open the day they put up their family tree. She tries to pick out an ornament that represents them in some way or is something of interest each year. For example, her middle daughter received a John Deere tractor ornament this year because it was the first year she drove the tractor all on her own. Then Cassie will write their name, the year and “From Mom and Dad” on each of them. What a unique way to document her childrens’ milestones!
  • Jennifer H sets aside a craft day to help her kids make a homemade ornament each year. How adorable are these! She also commented she makes their family photo into an ornament each year.
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  • Nikki S commented she enjoys a good laugh when she looks back at her ornaments made in grade school, moldy lucky charms and ancient peppermint candies and all.
  • Kayleigh K’s family plays a game with their German Pickle tradition, with a prize for the sibling who could race downstairs to the tree to find it first.
  • Sometimes ornaments remind us of those no longer with us as Janice P shares in her blog on JP Loves Life.
  • Michelle H (part of the Carlson Tree Farm family) has this to say about tree traditions: “Picking out a Christmas Tree is more than just about finding the Perfect Tree. It is about creating the Perfect Memory! Growing up on the Carlson Tree Farm we used to picked the ugliest tree in the patch that no one else would buy & then we made it beautiful with our handmade decorations! One year we even put our nativity scene in the tree to hide a big hole! To this day we enjoy picking the last tree of the season & get to be creative. Priceless Memories!”

So whether its a real tree or an artificial tree, trips to tree farms or special decorations it seems that Christmas Trees symbolize all the special people and memories that warm our hearts during the holidays. Thank you to those who shared great ideas and family traditions for this post. If you’re considering crafting some homemade ornaments this year, here’s a great recipe for salt dough that when baked can preserve those handmade memories for years to come.

Dough Ornament Recipe

4 c. flour

1 c. salt

1.5 c. warm water

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. Mix flour and salt well. Gradually add water, stirring with a large spoon. Finish mixing with hands. Knead until soft and pliable.
  3. Roll out on floured surface about 1/8 inch thick. Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Place on cookie sheets. With a toothpick make a hole in the top of the ornament for threading string. Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) until hard, about 1 hour. Decorate with paint and varnish to preserve.

Recipe originally from AllRecipes.com.

Maker's tip: Use paperclips inserted into your dough ornament while baking to form the space for the hanger.