Lawn Tree Traditions: Greening up the Neighborhood

mother and son

Mother and son

If you drop by this week, you’ll see Christmas trees up and down the block. Our neighborhood has an extensive and coordinated effort to display cut Christmas trees on our lawn each year. The trees go up the first week of December and come down New Year’s day. I’m the block captain for our street.

We try to make it a family affair, but now that our boys are teens, their interest wanes.  This year my older son did the heavy lifting along with his dad, dropping trees at each house while I drove the truck.  My youngest son asked if he could stay in bed!  So it goes.

the muscle

The Muscle

Our neighbor, Greg lends us his truck for deliveries.  I get to dust off my manual transmission driving skills once a year.  It keeps me in the game.

christmas tree bundles

Ready for delivery

The Bay Area is diverse.  Not all neighbors celebrate this tradition.  When I was a young, I wondered why one or two people wouldn’t want a tree in their yard.  Then I grew up and understood that the world is full of different religions and cultures and it all made sense.  We see Menorah in neighboring windows and understand others simply don’t embrace the ritual.  It’s a great time of year to pause and reflect on the richness of diversity.

We have an artificial tree indoors, and a cut tree on the lawn.  I wrote about the pros and cons of real vs fake last year.  You can read more about that here.

Do you celebrate Christmas?  Do you display a tree?  Real or fake…or both?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, below.

Organized at Heart

I’m posting a series of articles featuring organizing around the holidays this month on my blog Organized at Heart. If the subject interests you, please go take a peak. Today’s blog: Holiday Storage: The Case of the Shrinking House. 

Of note: Wikipedia has a wonderful and detailed article on the origins of the decorated Christmas tree.  I’m always learning something new on that site and must remember to make my annual donation accordingly.

19 thoughts on “Lawn Tree Traditions: Greening up the Neighborhood

  1. I love that your whole street gets into the swing of it – I thought neighbourhoods like that were a thing of the past – it must be a wonderful place to live!

    Sadly, I no longer have any kind of a tree at all – due simply to the size of my house which is miniscule. My youngest daughter now uses my last fake tree. When I had young children and a community I always had real trees and real candles too. We had wonderful traditions that began on the first Advent Sunday and went through to twelfth night [Jan 6th]. I miss those days – but the children grew up, I moved away from my community and there are no grand children to instil the traditions in. Sounds dreadful doesn’t it!! But other events have grown up instead – now I travel away from home to celebrate Christmas, and my girls carry on our traditions in their communities.

    Christmas is very different however when there are no small children to make it magical!


    • I love the holiday tree tradition around here. It is in fact wide spread throughout the Cambrian and Willow Glen neighborhoods. One of the coolest things, and again a challenge to photograph, is a larger than life santa and reindeer that spans several houses, all interconnected. Apparently a group of dads put it together one year and now it’s on everyone’s to-see list. It is very cool.

      I think it’s wonderful that you travel for Christmas and that you can spend time with your girls. I don’t think that is sad at all. I think the holidays can be a bit overwhelming at times. Simple is not bad at all. When I lived alone, pre-kids, I too had a tiny apartment and no tree. My source of decorations: strings of ribbon on the wall with all the lovely cards I received from friends. Once someone gave me a small, living tree, but it was far too hot and dry and it didn’t do well indoors.

      Where will you spend your Christmas this year?


      • Funny you should ask that – I’ve just published a post saying where I will be immediately prior to Christmas – we return Christmas Eve and will have a quiet couple of days at YD’s house before my ED returns to her home. Orlando is having a wee holiday too …..

        You must try and take a photo of the Santa and reindeer, that sounds pretty wonderful 🙂


  2. What a wonderful tradition! Do you, in addition to driving stick (my favorite kind of driving), coordinate getting the trees? And everyone decorates? How fun … will we get to see photos?
    It would be so wonderful if everyone was as accepting as you of other faiths and traditions … I struggle with the ignorance of this each holiday season (omg I said holiday!).


    • Hi LB!

      We have a neighborhood coordinator who works with a distributor to get the trees for our area (usually close to 300). Each block has a ‘captain’…that is where I come in. I send out an email to the folks on our block, then deliver a flyer/order form. They return the form and a check for $20. I deposit the smaller checks, and write one larger check to the coordinator. When the the trees arrive, we get deliver them on our street.

      I’ve tried to figure out a way to get a good photo, but the streets is long and the trees are placed in various positions on the lawns, making it hard to photograph. Wish you could come by and see it.

      ‘omg I said holiday!’…LOL Agreed. I wish we could all accept our differences and embrace diversity without fear and judgment.


    • Hi Shree,

      I’m behind on my comments this week. I’m so glad you stopped by.

      When we first moved to our neighborhood 17 years ago, another neighbor organized it. Now its a well-oiled machine. If you want to get one going, you might start by dropping off flyers at every house, then follow up with a visit or email if you have one for all your neighbors. Our coordinator has a relationship with a grower. A huge, flat-bed truck arrives at her house with 300 trees. Each block captain coordinates payments and delivers trees for their street (that’s the part I do). It’s fun. Let me know if you want me to put you in touch with Julie Mills our coordinator.


  3. Look how bundled up you are 😀 Even a very cute hat. I love hats and almost always wear one, even in the summer. I remember getting real trees as a kid. Most of the time dad would get one out on the road. There were also times we’d get one from the tree lot all tied up like that and because it’s Canada, it’d be frozen. It was always, “I wonder if it’s a good one” thing to watch it unfurl slowly as it thawed. Oh the smell…..yum.

    I’m impressed you can hop in a standard vehicle once a year with no problem. I actually learned stick the day of our Tornado in Edmonton (25 years ago I think). My girlfriend, a nurse and I were taking off for BC. Since she’d worked a 12 hour shift, I was to drive. I had some very little experience and the weather had left everyone rattled. We made it to Calgary and got a hotel 😀

    It’s really cool that many of your neighbours enjoy and continue with a tradition. Tradition can be a nice anchor when everything else around you changes often. I’ve used an artificial tree probably for 25 years. We’ve got a really tall, pre lit one in storage. At the lake we had a cathedral ceiling so I hope it fits in the next home, LOL. I just decorated our little 4 ft one today…oh man it’s really loaded. I couldn’t decide what to leave off, HA!


    • It was really cold that day, at least by California standards. I love hats too! I bought this one at the car wash shop. You remember how many cute things they had there. It’s really warm, but light and feminine. Perfect for walking in, too.

      You look adorable in hats. They are so practical. They keep the sun and heat off your face and keep the heat in during winter.

      What wonderful times getting a tree by the side of the road. I love the idea of that; the way it used to be.

      Interesting thinking about your frozen tree unfurling. I was setting up client trees, and unsuspecting, I removed the twine, only to have the lower branches drop quickly and slap me in the face. Honestly, it’s a miracle I’m still walking around for all my clumsiness.

      You’ll have to share more about the Edmonton Tornado. I don’t know anything about it, but I’m sure your readers would be intrigued.

      Glad you got your tree up!


      • Well that was the swankiest Car Wash I’ve ever been in and I’m sure that has ever been. Great shopping destination, who’d have thought. The ducks of course are easy to enjoy but the fish were kind of funky with those big lips..LOL. Thanks for the hat compliment, you do too!

        I’m sorry, I laughed when I read your tree story, but only because I could totally see me doing that too. I swear, if they had a camera on either of us, most days it’d be like a blooper reel.
        Mr B will attest to the fact that I’m a walking disaster waiting to happen, LOL.

        I’ll have to think about making a post when the anniversary comes up for the Tornado. I’m afraid it was a biggie, major damage and a number of fatalities. You couldn’t use a phone, all the lines were jammed and there weren’t cell phones or internet then. So with no power or TV, I waited for Marie at her condo and worried. Here’s a story, it was July 31, 1987 (I was 26)


        • Thank you for sending along the link. What a frightening experience. I’ve never been in one, so can only imagine the fright. What devastation. Are tornadoes rare in Edmonton?

          LOL to the blooper reel. Yep…that would be us. Too funny.

          I’m glad you like the car wash. There is a second one, equally fun and quite different. Two small shops and a cafe along with the car wash and even a few chickens in a coop in the back. Craziest car wash ever.


          • Tornado’s are probably rare in this part of Canada. There’s maybe only 10-12 per year of varying severity. There’s a lot of rural land in Alberta, so they tend to miss populated area’s. But two of the deadliest tornado’s in Canada have happened in Alberta. The Edmonton one and then one at Pine Lake in 2000 just south of here on a very busy camping weekend. There are a lot more tornados in Ontario where the summers have stifling heat and the lakes cause major humidity.

            We’ll have to visit those chickens next time I’m in town. I think it’s brilliant to have something to do while you’re waiting.


            • Funny you mention Ontario and tornadoes. My mom was in one. I had completely forgotten that until you mentioned it. She was in a car and remembers it spinning around. She also remembered a woman being pushed up against a fence. They all survived so it must have been a small one.

              I remember so little about our home town of London, Ontario. Funny what comes back with a little prompting.


  4. What a wonderful tradition! I would love to be part of that neighborhood. I think Christmas has evolved into an all encompassing holiday. I have a Jewish niece who celebrates Christmas with us as well as Hanukkah. I love the lights and the smells and the love and kindness of the season. Had to do fake trees since the real one that would be big enough for most of my ornaments would be too big for me to wrangle and I worry about fire in an apartment building. In a single family home, I might go real again. They smell lovely. Put lights on my balcony and porch to dress up the outside and feel more festive. As for teens, they are growing so fast, that’s all they have energy for. In a couple of years, they’ll come round again. At least one is helping. Please show us the finished trees. I’m so excited!:)


    • Thanks, Marlene.

      I have a few friends that also celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. It’s nice when folks can embrace the best of all the traditions. We’ve been invited to our neighbors Hanukkah party most years and enjoy the lighting of the candles and the wonderful food and festivities.

      Lights on your balcony sound wonderful. I never thought to do that when I lived in an apartment. What a great idea.

      Real trees can be a real fire hazard, so I agree that you are wise to got with a fake one. We leave ours up for so long, too, that an artificial one makes more sense. I was raised taking down the tree on New Year’s Day, but my husband, raised Catholic, likes to keep it up through the Epiphany. That would be a very long time for a dead tree to hang in there.

      What I did this year was buy branches of greens from our local nursery. I’ve made several arrangements using a single red flower from the grocery store and the greens. They smell great!

      Thanks for your perspective on the teens. It’s always nice to get perspectives to others who’ve already been through it.


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