Carding, Vermont has a holiday tradition that’s unique—a tree trimming party that takes place over a whole weekend.
This is the tale of how it got started.
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It all started when Edie Wolfe noticed that her friend Andy Cooper wasn’t putting up a Christmas tree in the rambling apartment where he lives over the store that bears his family’s name.
“Ah, it isn’t the same without the kids at home,” he explained to his best friend. “Barry and his wife and their kids have become the center for the Cooper holidays, and I just don’t enjoy trimming a tree by myself.”
That comment made Edie lean back in her chair. “I know what you mean. Even though Diana and Stephen and the kids live right across the green from me, I gave up trying to coordinate a tree trimming at my house because it was too hard to get them all in the same place at the same time.”
“But you always put up a tree,” Andy observed.
Edie’s smile was not merry and bright. “Yes, but I do it by myself. It’s not the same.”
Then she lapsed into a silence tinged by poignant memories. Christmas can do that to a person.
The friends were silent for a few minutes, each reliving the memories of holidays past. But then the cloud on Edie’s face began to lift, and Andy realized that an idea was rolling around in her head. All he had to do was wait patiently for it to materialize.
“More coffee?” he asked.
“Yes, yes.” Edie said, her eyes far away. “You know, there’s a bunch of us in town who no longer have families at home. Our kids have grown, and they’ve got kids.” She sighed. “Even though it was a lot of work, I miss the chaos of Christmas when I was younger.”
Andy smiled. “Growing up, we always opened presents on Christmas morning, and then our cousins would show up around noon. There’d be twenty people at the table, all talking at the same time. Us Coopers have the gift of the gab, if you haven’t noticed.”
Edie laughed. “So why do we have to give that up?” she asked. “There’s enough of us in town with empty nests to make a heckuva good party.”
“You mean skip being with our kids on the holidays?”
“No, no. What I’m thinking is that we get together to trim each other’s trees and decorate each other’s houses,” Edie said as she stirred half-and-half into her refreshed coffee.
“Wouldn’t we need more than one party to do that?”
“Well, yes and no. Remember those progressive suppers that the Episcopal Church used to organize when we were kids?”
“Yeah, appetizers at one house, salad at another, the main meal at a third, and then dessert.” Andy smiled. “I loved your mother’s lemon cookies.”
“What if we did that with tree trimming,” Edie said. “We could start at your house, put your tree up and decorate it then move over to my house, do my tree, and then head over to Ruth’s and so on. Each of us could provide goodies and music, and we’d get to show off the ornaments we’ve collected over the years.”
Edie was starting to glow. “Did you ever stop to think about the stories attached to Christmas ornaments? I’ve got one that my mother embroidered for Daniel and Diana’s first Christmas. It’s of a little boy holding a wreath. I think about her every time I touch it.”
Andy nodded. “I’ve got a ceramic train that’s so heavy, I have to put it on the mantle instead of hanging it on the tree. But it always reminds me of a family story about my grandfather trying to get home by train in time for Christmas.”
“See?” Edie said. “We’ve started already. Who else do you think would like to do this?”
“Well, Ruth, of course, and my brother Charlie and Agnes,” Andy said, pulling out a piece of scrap paper and a pencil to make a list. “Maybe Lydie Talbot.”
“And Reverend Lyle over at the church, and then there’s……”
And so it started, Carding’s Progressive Tree Trimming Party.
There were only a handful of participants that first year but it has grown ever since. Now it takes up the whole weekend before Christmas, usually starting at Andy’s house on Saturday morning and ending up at Edie’s on Sunday night.
Exchanging gifts is not allowed so that no one feels left out or obligated to spend money they don’t have.
But spiced cider and lemon cookies are always welcome, and a few sips of Charlie Cooper’s special eggnog are guaranteed to keep you warm all day.
And there are always stories. The one about Andy Cooper’s grandfather trying to get home for Christmas on a rather sketchy train is a favorite. If you stop by next week, he’ll tell it to you.
In the meantime, I am wishing all of you happy, happy holidays. May all your celebrations—no matter how they happen—be merry and bright.
And one quick note—I turned the comments off on my website but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear from you. You are welcome to email me any time at Sonja@SonjaHakala.com.