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The perfect Christmas tree

The Isakson family searches for the perfect Christmas tree. (Special to the Record)

According to one of the oldest Christmas tree legends, the fir tree was the tree of life in the Garden of Eden, but its lush leaves shriveled into needles when its fruit was picked. The fir tree receives new life when decorated to honor Christ's birth.

Another legend tells of baby Jesus' family's flight into Egypt: The holy family spent a night under a pine tree during the journey, and Herod's soldiers approached as the slept.

The pine tree lowered its branches to hide the family, and the next day the Christ child raised his tiny arms to bless the tree. Even now, when a pine cone is cut apart lengthwise, the imprint of a tiny hand is visible inside.

In the 17th century, popular use of the Christmas tree began in France then spread through Europe to North America.

Today, the trimming of the Christmas tree provides delightful holiday memories as families and friends are drawn together to find the perfect tree.

The first of December is the traditional tree-cutting day for our family.

The snow is falling softly as we emerge from our minivan -- ready for a long day in the inclement Minnesota winter weather, handsaw secured under my husband's arm and four children 'at-the-ready', to take their positions.

Mercifully I have been blessed with a husband who understands my need for a live tree, and children who go along, albeit grudgingly for the teenagers. The younger kids rush ahead from tree to tree.

"This one!" one exclaims.

"No, THIS one!" another proclaims.

"Remember," I encourage them, "no bare spots, at least as tall as Daddy, long green needles, and very fat and round."

Eagerly they rush off to find the next tree.

My eldest daughter saunters toward an especially nice tree. "I like this one," she says.

Understanding that she is giving in to this family tradition once again, I peruse the tree. "Yes," I say, "I really like this one too."

Just then my husband calls from several rows over. "What do you think of this one?"

And so it goes ... I position each child at a tree that has to be reconsidered; back-and-forth, back-and-forth until finally the perfect tree is chosen.

My husband and eldest son crawl in the snow beneath the scratchy needles and saw it down. Trudging through the snow in procession, our family then drags it to the gate where it is wrapped in wire and ready to bring home.

Still vivid in our family's memory is the year that my choice of the perfect tree was -- to be mildly descriptive -- excessive.

I had selected a tree that really did look smaller on the farm than it was in actuality!

With the back hatch of the minivan open, we pushed a very round 16-foot tree, trunk-first between the front bucket seats, and then stuffed all four children in the back.

Needles and branches poking hands and faces, it was an extremely cold and uncomfortable ride home! I'm still amazed that the Child Protection Agency didn't yank the children away from us then-and-there!

Extricating the tree from the van proved to be not only difficult, but incredibly messy, with sap and needles covering the inside of the carpeted van.

Hubby and two sons dragged my perfect tree onto the front lawn and with difficulty wrapped it in a tarp.

Then they carefully maneuvered the monstrosity to the front door.

Unfortunately, since simple nudging through the door wasn't working, it seemed the only way to get it into the house was to push it through the door as fast and hard as possible. OK, so this resulted in a broken screen door. Life was still good. I still had my tree.

Once inside, we realized that my beautiful 16-foot tree would need to be trimmed (at least 2 feet, since the cathedral ceiling in our family room was only 15 feet at its peak).

My husbands' ever-available handsaw came out once again.

When finished, the picturesque -- yet still overwhelming -- tree was standing tall.

Wood shavings, tree needles and sap lay over the family room carpet, and a broken screen door swung aimlessly outside in the winter wind, but I had my precious perfect tree once again.

I smiled at not only my incredibly indulgent family, who would soon decorate this greenery with many years of precious homemade ornaments, but also that this was, though we didn't appreciate it then, a time we would fondly remember:

A child standing beside each tree ... the boys and Daddy crawling underneath to cut it down ... the cold, prickly ride home ... a tree that consumed the living area ... decorating it ... a light-challenged husband declaring every year that we would get new lights next year ... and finally, the youngest on Daddy's shoulders to put the Angel on top.

I guess that when all is said and done, it is family and the memories that are shared that makes this one of the most beautiful seasons of all -- especially when you have the perfect tree!

(We invite readers to share their holiday memories, too. Email stories and photos to editor Nathan Bowe at Or mail them to Detroit Lakes Newspapers, 511 Washington Ave., Box 826, Detroit Lakes, MN., 56501, or just drop them off at the front desk.)