Tahlequah Daily Press

December 23, 2013

Talking about the tannenbaum

The second in a series about Christmas memories

Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — One holiday tradition many families around the world enjoy is decorating a Christmas tree – and it’s often source of many fond memories.

THS receptionist Dee Corn remembers going to pick out the tree with her parents at a Christmas tree lot.

“It was fun watching my parents; my mother was so particular, it had to be perfect, and it always was. My dad would puff impatiently waiting for her to decide,” Corn said.

This year, all but one of her seven children and 19 grandchildren will be home.

“My oldest lives in Oregon. We’ll have a house full,” Corn said. “We each bring a Mexican dish; I was raised in San Diego.”

Realtor Maria LeDoux spent her childhood Christmases in Holland.

“And it was not confused with ‘Sinter Klaas’ [St. Nicholas] since that was celebrated on Dec. 5,” said LeDoux.

Their tree at home was decorated with old-fashioned ornaments that clipped on.

“The lights, actual candles, also clipped on,” said LeDoux. “My dad would light those candles – I shudder today to think of the danger – and we would sing Christ-mas songs around the tree. My family would walk through the snow to attend church. No car then. Afterward, we would stop at a french fry stand and enjoy the hot fries with a mustard relish sauce.”

A special dinner followed, known as “Rystafel,” which is a formal Indonesian meal. LeDoux is Dutch, Indonesian and French.

“[The meal] consists of yellow rice, satay [grilled shisksa bobs], toasted grated coconut, sambel [hot chili], chicken spiced and cooked, steamed vegetables and peanut sauce,” Le Doux said. “If you’ve ever eaten Thai food, this is very comparable.”

A family that cut its own tree

Anita Kindle grew up in Adair County, and her family members put up the tree, which they cut down themselves, soon after Thanksgiving.

“We always found a Christmas tree, sometimes on the side of the road or out in someone’s field, on the way home from church, back when we all knew everybody, when I was a kid,” Kindle said.

They would always keep an eye out for the perfect tree.

“We were just laughing about that the other day. As an adult, I am more aware of things they do now. They call ahead and ask the neighbor before cutting a tree down. But, as a kid, I remember my daddy saying he was just going to cut down any tree he wanted to.” Kindle said. “We don’t even know our neighbors so much anymore.”

Her parents carried on the tradition with her son, Doyle, and their other grandkids, too.

“They’d wait until the grandkids came over to get the tree,” she said. “Now, my nephew is taking his children out to find a tree, and we usually do that on Thanksgiving Day with his little girls and some of the family. Our nephew said that’s one of his favorite memories.”

They take the tree back and decorate it.

“If we could only reach halfway up, that’s how Mama would leave it. She wouldn’t change it. She was so proud that she made us proud,” Kindle said.

Who doesn’t remember a favorite aunt who makes special memories that last forever, especially pretty ones or tasty ones?

THS student Salene Salazar loves putting up the Christmas tree with her brothers and sisters and mom right after Thanksgiving, or that weekend.

“The younger kids make something at school and we put those up on the tree first,” Salazar said. “And we make ornaments. This year, we had small paper plates and we cut out snowflakes and put glitter on them.”

Trimming the tree an exercise in creativity

Some people make their tree a different color each year. THS student Marisa Bravo likes decorating the tree with her family.

“We did it Tuesday night. We put ornaments on we made in kindergarten and drank eggnog. Last year, the tree was purple and silver. This year, it’s red and gold,” said Bravo.

Opening gifts happens in some homes on Christmas Eve, some on Christmas Day and others whenever the family members can all get together.

Janette Smith recalls being a little girl of 5, getting up early one Christmas morning before everyone else.

“My stocking cap was filled,” she said, but her attention went to the tree. “There were no presents under the tree until Christmas morning, so I was excited and opened everyone’s presents – my meme’s [Rhoda Smith], dad’s [Abe Smith] and mom’s [Charlotte].”

Her mom had 12 sisters and brothers, so they didn’t get a lot.

“I was an only child, so Santa really came. I was sitting there messing with everything when my mom and granny got up,” said Smith. “I got a Squeaky Baby from OTASCO. I still have her.”

Christmas is Smith’s favorite holiday. She has two children and five grandchildren.

“I’ve started decorating the tree the way my granny let me. Now my grandkids – Audrie Garcia, 4; Averie Womack, 3; Brantlee Truitt, 10 months; Kaelynn Smith, 2; and Trysten Smith, 7 months – put on ornaments and I leave them where they put them, even four ornaments on one limb,” said Smith.

“Me and the kids and grandkids get together and open gifts on Christmas morning.”