Memories old and new return with the lighting of Christmas tree

Wisconsin State Farmer
Christmas tree and its decorations have become a family history tree in the Apps family.

The Christmas tree is up. The tree lights are on. The tree decorations are hung with care. And the memories return. I remember the Christmas trees when I was a kid on the home farm. We had no lights at the time as we had no electricity. Pa would never think of putting candles on the tree. He was afraid of fire. He allowed no candles in the house, except for those that appeared on birthday cakes.

Our tree was beautiful with big, shiny ornaments that my mother carefully stored away and brought out in early December to hang on the tree.

I must have been about four years old when I remember spotting a toy barn under the tree on Christmas along with toy cows and horses. It was likely the following year that I received my first and only toy train. It included a half dozen little red metal cars, and a black, wind-up locomotive. I still have that special little train, which I played with for years. It still works; it was built to last and last it did.

Today, and for the past several decades, our Christmas tree and its decorations have become a family history tree. Each year, Ruth writes down the essential happenings for the year and puts the information in a little matchbox that we hang on the tree. There are also unique ornaments for each of our children, grandchildren, and great grand grandchildren. To find the history of our family—we have three children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren—inspect our Christmas tree.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Christmas trees can become history trees.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to