I am very serious about our family’s Christmas tree. We have well-established traditions surrounding it now, but this is an attitude that pre-dates my seven-year-old daughter, my marriage, and even my relationship with my husband, who, by the way, is Jewish. (It was clear early on in our courtship that Christmas trees were kind of a big deal to me. As with all relationships, we have made many compromises but anything about The Tree was never really on the table.)

This evergreen devotion is rooted, so to speak, in my own experience growing up in upstate New York, where every year, my parents and I would set out—to where, I’m not exactly clear—to some rural spot to chop down our Christmas tree.

I have vivid memories of trudging through fields of pine trees under the gray skies of early winter, my dad with a saw in hand. I think most of the time we were at a tree farm, but others, we may have been off-roading it. (It was the wild west of the 70s after all.)

Looking at the photographic evidence, I see our trees reflected a criteria of “whatever works” (or more specifically what was easy, or affordable) with wildly asymmetrical forms and odd shapes more suitable to a Dr. Seuss narrative than a Norman Rockwell scene.

Of course, I never saw that, and it didn’t matter. The decorating of our tree was a special event, an occasion my sister and I looked forward to every year. A small, but simultaneously monumental affair, it involved our considerable stash of ornaments, my parents’ good friends Anne and John Farie—who would gift my sister and me two similar, but not exact ornaments each year—and fondue for six. (Served, on one special night, in the living room, tree side with logs blazing in the fireplace. Again, this was the 70s.)

Over the decades, my tree scenarios have morphed and changed along with my life circumstances, for sure. Living in New York City, I’ve been a repeat customer of several Christmas tree street vendors throughout the years, hauling my tree a few blocks with the help of a roommate or a “granny cart” normally used to ferry groceries.

But those street corner trees can be pricey (those 24-hour vendors do pay for that real estate) especially if you want to go big. So for my next Christmas tree shopping trip, I committed what I thought was the ultimate fresh tree sin, and went to a big box store.

As a New Yorker, I love a bargain, and I got a 6-7 foot Fraser Fir for a great price. (Did I have to call a car to drive my tree to my house? Yeah, but it was so worth it, especially with a Black Friday coupon. I’ve never looked back!)

Over the years, our tree trimmings have evolved from raucous, boozy affairs to kid-friendly brunches with a tipsy tail end, but we always have a real tree, fondue, and a considerable stash of ornaments—some of which, from Anne and John Farie, stood the test of time.

Photos: Mimi O’Connor