Finding the right tree!
Snow fell, and we said goodbye to fall as if it were a thing that never existed. There were never leaves of red, yellow, or orange decorating the skyline. There were no greying trees of exposed branches and bark. There is only this place, this glittering, snow-crusted universe which bends branches low.
At least, that’s how it felt two days ago when I woke up to 4 inches of snow. Outside my window spindly branches bent like frozen hair, splaying across the sky, outstretched in wild, untamable patterns. I love this time of year. If it is going to be cold, give me this bright white stuff that shines back at me when the sun is out, the stuff that mutes the trees but highlights the birds flying through them. Give me the traditions that make the season worth singing about.
Traditions Worth Singing About
Christmas is synonymous with Newaygo to me; there are endless traditions and annual events that occur all around the county, and the cities looks their best. The town storefronts are lit by colored lights, all blinking to each other from behind decorated windowpanes. There is the Christmas Walk through downtown Newaygo, during which shops stay open late, vendors line up, streets flood with neighbors, and Santa and his sleigh cruise by.
One of my favorite traditions, though, is one that I have been partaking in with my family since I toddled around in too-big boots, my feet not yet accustomed to walking. The tradition of cutting down our own Christmas tree at Church’s Christmas Tree Farm in Grant, MI.
Harvesting Your Own Christmas Tree
When you arrive at Churches, the parking area is bustling. There are trees hoisted and carried, wreaths hung, children and adults laughing and sloshing around in snow. You can choose from hundreds of pre-cut trees near the entrance, drive into the farm yourself, or (the family favorite) climb aboard the tractor-trailer for a hayride.
Whatever you choose, there are thousands of trees. From small, table-top trees to 15 footers, in every direction there are Christmas Trees, poking up in rows like bright green spires in the snow. There are Fraser Firs (our personal favorite), Blue Spruces, Pine, Douglas Firs and more. The hayride transports you through a plot of each variety and carries you (quite literally) over the river and through the snow-drenched woods. Once you find the perfect tree, the staff provides you with a saw, and you make it your own (though worry not, for every tree cut, many more are planted).
Once you make your way back to the entrance, staff take the time to drill, shake, and bail each tree to make them easier for transport.
Going to Churches feels like one big family reunion. The kind you don’t avoid but look forward to every year, all smiles and waves and hugs. Everyone is happy here. Everyone is thinking about the warmth of the season, bodies hidden under coats or blankets, dreaming of the ornaments they’ve yet to hang or the fire they’ve yet to light.
Inside the Moose Barn, (the warming barn everyone congregates in after picking a tree!) snowflakes melt into puddles that quickly evaporate. Eyelashes thaw, and hands are rubbed together, warming under breath exuded from cherry-colored cheeks. Sitting on hay-bales in the 80-degree heat, you can join in and sip hot chocolate or munch on hot dogs and nachos. The air is pine mixed with flame, and that bright, fresh-washed smell that winter creates which clings to clothing. I’m telling you, the place feels like a Christmas card, all the best parts of the season collected under one roof.
Maybe it’s being outside, facing the elements rather than avoiding them for a few hours. Maybe it’s the familial banter we encounter every year, my Dad wanting to pick the first tree he sees, my Mom wanting to spend hours walking every row to find the perfect one. Maybe it’s sipping sugary hot chocolate, voices barely audible over the swishing of snow-pants and coats, kids laughing everywhere, nostalgia bubbling up from places forgotten, that require me to love this tradition so much. Really, it is all of these things. It is the sounds and smells that root me to my memories here that I will carry with me forever. If you’re looking for a new tradition for your family, I can’t recommend this one enough.
Church’s Christmas Tree Farm is located at 182 W 136th St in Grant, MI.
They are open daily until Christmas, from dawn to dusk.
For more information, visit their website at: https://www.churchstreefarm.com/
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