The Great White Christmas Tree

When I was very young, my family had real trees in the house at Christmas. I remember the smell of spruce and fir, as much a part of Christmas as the presents, the decorations, and the tree itself.

Sometime in the mid 1960s, when I was about 10 years old, my parents decided to get with the times and buy an artificial Christmas tree. Not just any artificial Christmas tree, but an artificial tree with white needles.

The tree was similar to the more familiar aluminum Christmas trees. But it was white. And plastic.

I don’t remember if I was more confused or excited by the concept but, because the tree was plastic, we couldn’t use our usual Christmas lights on the tree. The tree simply would have melted with the heat of the bulbs. Instead, my parents bought a light wheel. The exciting part was that my parents asked me to assemble the light wheel, which I did with gusto, having something of an aptitude for taking things apart and putting them back together.

There really wasn’t much to assemble, but I did it by myself, and that’s what really mattered. The wheel included four colored panels, behind which burned a bright, white bulb. In my mind, I can still hear the whirring of the motor as the wheel turned, spraying an array of colors on the tree and around the room – now blue – now red – now green – now yellow.

We assembled the white plastic tree year after year until it was finally too old, broken, and sad looking to use any longer. Its replacement, again artificial, was a lifelike green tree, upon which we once again strung traditional lights.

But of all the Christmas trees my family had over the years, none brings back such vivid memories of Happy Christmases as the Great White Christmas Tree.

Written for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories – Day 1.

Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko

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5 Responses to The Great White Christmas Tree

  1. Hi Steve,

    I love the new design. We always had a real tree — for some reason my parents never “modernized” but mom did add a small green artificial tree to the dining room that only she was allowed to decorate (all in green & gold with white lights) – no tinsel or big lights for her special tree. You were an inspiration to me and I’ve started a blog about CGS. Please stop by and take a look.

    Kathryn

  2. Steve – you have no idea how much I wanted a white Christmas tree as I grew up. And the color wheel too. And I told my Mom we needed the musical stand to put it on so it could turn around.

    The only thing I really wanted more, because it was so rare, was the elusive gold metal Christmas tree – the stately version of the aluminum tree.

    Great post!

  3. Hi Steve,

    We always had a real tree at home when I was a child and I got to decorate TWO trees; the one at home for my family and the other one for my father’s mother and sister. There are stories about both, I can assure you.

    My neighbors had an aluminum tree with a color wheel in the early ’60s and it was really pretty cool. I grew up in such a small podunk town in NC that our one local movie theater used a color wheel to project color onto the bare movie screen before and between shows.

    In the 1980s, when I lived in Chicago, we had a great lake house in SW Lower Michigan. Our neighbor always went out on the day after Thanksgiving to buy a spruce tree. He then put it in a stand in the garage, surrounded with plastic sheeting. Wearing a face mask and safety goggles, he flocked the tree with white flocking. It was a huge project! He told me that he had done that since his first marriage and since his children were small. (He was widowed, retired, and remarried, and his children now had children.) He swore that this was a tradition he would maintain as long as he lived. He did, and it was an impressive family tradition that all of the family (and I) missed after his death in March 1992.

    Holiday traditions, whatever the nationality, religion, or ethnic origin, are rich and wonderful. We can learn so much from one another if we maintain an open mind and an open heart!

    George

  4. Apple says:

    I’ve been trying to remember what became of my grandparents Christmas tree and if Grandpa even put up a tree after Grandma died in 1970. The color wheel was the coolest thing about visiting their house at Christmas time.

  5. Janice says:

    Steve,

    My family had one of the white trees with the color wheel too. It was so techno at the time lol. I blame it on some good marketing, and of course some good television advertising. I wonder which TV program first showed one of those trees that we wanted it so badly…. any ideas? The Lawrence Welk Show maybe?

    Janice

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