Dec
25

1st Day of Christmas: Our Christmas Tree Tradition

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Growing up in Colorado Rocky Mountains, it was a long-standing tradition that my family would literally take the “road less traveled” to find our Christmas tree. It was not enough to go merely to the local tree lot, instead we would trek deep into the White River National Forest and cut down our own.

This annual adventure was usually set into motion months prior during our summer hikes. We would scope out ideal locations and potential trees and plan our return during the winter. One year we even tried setting our GPS systems to the exact point where we found the most beautiful tree of the season – only to return in the winter to an empty spot (the verdict is still out, but either someone else beat us to the spot or we never figured out how to work those GPS units).

To find our tree was an all-day affair and we wouldn’t have it any other way. The whole family (plus dog) would leave in the early hours of the morning with our US Forest Service Christmas tree cutting permit, snow shoes, handsaws (no chainsaws are permitted) and packs full of snacks. If we didn’t have a location in mind from the summer before, we’d try to pick the more challenging routes – breaking trails in the snow in hopes of finding “the one” that no one else could reach. That was all part of the adventure. If you found your tree within the first hour, you weren’t looking hard enough. I would disclose some of our favorite routes, but I fear retribution for sharing family secrets.

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Once we found our tree and brought it home (another intensive process just to get back to the car!) there were three things that typically happened.

1) We would pick a tree that was entirely too large and would need to find creative methods to get it into our house (scattering needles and branches everywhere to make it fit).
2) We would forget to place the Angel on the top of the tree until after the tree was securely strapped in the stand and supported (some may have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, I had visions of my family precariously balancing 15 feet up on a beam to get the Angel topper to stay put and upright).
3) We would invite friends and family over to celebrate the holiday, decorate the tree and enjoy yummy cookies and snacks.

I’ve found some of the best cookies to invigorate the mind and body after an arduous climb in the middle of winter are oatmeal cookies. While not a requirement, these are best enjoyed while decorating your own Christmas tree.

5-Star Oatmeal Cookies (source: Unknown)
Servings: 32 to 36
Prep. Time: :15 minutes
Total Time: :30 minutes

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup butter-flavored shortening
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon. baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, butter-flavored shortening, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Stir in the oats and raisins. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until light and golden. Do not overbake. Let them cool for 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheets to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

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