How about a sneak peek inside my new book, Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming & Humorous Christmas Memoir? Can I entice you to buy it with a sampling of it?
Chapter 18: Give away a Christmas Tree?
Giveaway a Christmas tree? Why would anyone do that? When I first came to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1991 as a middle school teacher, I started a tradition in my classroom. Each year, I put up a Christmass tree, then gave it away to one of my students before our Christmas vacation.
Early in December, I’d have my students put their names in a hat, and we’d draw the lucky winner. I taught in a low-income school and many of my students’ families struggled with the basics. A Christmas tree was a luxury and a fresh-cut one, a novelty.
In 1991, and throughout the time I taught, we could still put up a Christmas tree in our classrooms, and I dressed in my Christmas out!ts, starting the first Monday after Advent. Today, I know that teachers can’t do this, which makes me sad. That Christmas tree always brought a touch of magic into my classroom—the piñon pine smell, the twinkling lights, and the popcorn chain we threaded together in each class and laughed over.
Often, I would turn down the overhead lights and read to my classes with just the Christmas tree lights on. What a precious memory!
Because I put the tree up at the beginning of December, the anticipation grew about the contest. I teased them often with the possibility: who would win? All students were eligible!
I will never forget that first year of seeing the lucky student whose name I drew. He was the winner! Shocked, he and several students helped me un-decorate the tree after our class Christmas party. Then he convinced two friends to help him carry the tree home. As I looked out the window and watched this funny parade, the smiles and excitement the group exhibited warmed my heart. Even though they were middle-schoolers, they treasured this fresh-cut tree. After that first year, I knew I had found a grand tradition to continue!
HOW DID I come about having an extra tree each year to give away?
After I moved to Albuquerque, I often went home to Colorado for Thanksgiving. Like I mentioned before, my parents had a family ranch in southeastern Colorado and northeastern New Mexico. Growing up, we went out to the ranch and cut our own tree each year.
During that weekend home, we went out to the ranch and cut down three trees—one for my folks, one for my home, and one for my classroom. My parents loved the idea of providing a Christmas tree for my classroom and they loved the gifting to a student.
I loved those trips out to our ranch, cutting down a fresh tree. Dad, Mom, and I made a great excursion out of it. On previous trips out there, we had already decided where the best piñon pine trees were. During these years, Dad started the sawing, but because of his breathing issues and his age, I usually helped. And yes, we always got sap on our hands—what a delicious smell, but a sticky mess!
I felt privileged to give away a Christmas tree to one of my students, and this tradition continued for many years. What a rewarding experience it was!
Is a Christmas tree giveaway something special? I thought it was, especially after seeing my students’ smiles. Have you ever given a Christmas tree away? If so, what was the effect?
Larada Horner-Miller, Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming & Humorous Christmas Memoir, (2023): 85-88.
I hope this sneak peek whetted your appetite for more of my stories, poems, and memories! Have you ever given a Christmas tree away?
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