My Cheap Charlie Brown Tree

I love Christmas. I love seeing lights strung all over my city. I love seeing Christmas trees in windows, and hearing the ringing bell outside the Walmart. I love picking out presents and smelling the turkey baking on Christmas day. There are a hundred little traditions and memories that I carry into the holiday season. And one of them is going to pick out the tree. But this year I found that my workload simply woudn't allow me the time I usually have for holiday prep. I reached that point where the energy I had left didn't match the energy required to do my regular Christmas thing. Something had to give. And one casualty in this new normal was the Christmas tree. And so I began the challenge of convincing my eight-year-old son that getting a pre-lit artificial tree was going to be even more exciting than bringing home a fresh one.

It was a tough sell. My kid is no dummy. And traditions mean even more to him than they do to me – especially traditions that involve Santa. And rather than play my usual "because I said so, and don't cry or I'll give you something to cry about" card, I put a little more heart into it. This was his Christmas after all – and these were going to be memories that would last a lifetime.  I had to convince my son that this way was even more exciting. "This year, we are going to do something really special," I said. "This year we are going to get an artificial tree!"  My son paused and gave me that look that said he wasn't buying it – same look he gave me when I told him we were going on a field trip to the doctor's office.

"The lights will already be on it!" I exclaimed. "And now you don't have to watch me and Daddy fight while we untangle them."

Still nothing. (Man this kid is unshakeable.)

"And just think…..this tree will last FOREVER! It's the Christmas tree that never dies! We might just put it in your room for a little while after Christmas is over!" I said excitedly. (I know, this one is going to come back to bite me.)

He paused and his eyes widened. A Christmas tree that lives forever is much better than the one that loses all its needles and gets thrown to the curb. (Note: Trash people will not pick it up if you put it out there with the lights still on it.) He was in. And so before he could wisen up, we jumped in the car and headed out to the pre-lit Christmas tree lot – aka Walmart. And for less than thirty bucks, we got a pre-lit tree and ten cedar scented pinecones to place strategically nearby. Will carried the tree to the car himself. With one hand.

We put the tree together with two moves and it was, well, shorter than it looked in the picture. So we made it a table top tree instead. Will squealed in delight because he had never had a tree that reached all the way to the ceiling before! And he hopped up and down as we started decorating the tree with the new set of shatterproof ornaments that cost less than the gas it took to get me to the store. Meanwhile, my husband is still speechless at this tree that couldn't handle the weight of all our ornaments or it would fall over. He started whistling the theme song for A Charlie Brown Christmas – and still does every time we enter the room. And even I had to admit, looking at that pitiful faux tree, that maybe my idea wasn't as good as I thought. Until I watched my son run into the room every morning to turn on the lights. And overheard him telling all his neighborhood friends that he had the best tree ever. Or when I tuck him in at night he says his prayers and thanks God for his Christmas tree.

So this year won't look like Christmases past. And this might be our new normal – at least for now. But my son is teaching me a lesson – that traditions are what we make them. That holidays are what we make them. That life is what we make it. You can see a cheap tree with a plastic crooked star. Or you can see it reflected in a little boy's eyes – as it becomes the most perfect tree in the whole wide world. The choice is yours.

Here's hoping you see your holiday season and your life through the eyes of an eight-year-old.

Your wacky motivational speaker who has fake hair, fake eyelashes, and now a fake Christmas tree,
Kelly Swanson




Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson - called one of North Carolina's funniest women by Our State Magazine. Kelly lifts the spirits of audiences from coast-to-coast using humor, storytelling, and lives of the characters from Prides Hollow - Kelly's make believe small town. This unique approach to motivational speaking allows Kelly to break through communications barriers and connect directly to the audience's imagination.
Her powerful stories and wacky wit will make you laugh, remind you that you matter, show you how to see beyond your obstacles, and teach you how to stand up and stick out in a crowded market.
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  1. Oh nice, nice, nice, Kelly. What a perfect reminder of that fact that life (or a tree) is what you make it.  And I can just see Will now as he is listening to your enthusiastic reasoning of why this new idea is better.  He is one lucky little dude, my friend.  As am I to be your friend and to learn from you in this little blg community.

  2. After years of hawling the still oozing sap tree across my carpet, standing for what felt like hours holding the darn thing while it was adjusted in the stand below, I LOVE my fake tree. One of the best things about the divorce was being able to finally get the Christmas tree of my dreams. Perfectly fake with the lights built-in. We purchased ours 3 years ago and it still stands tall and proud. Even my daughters love the simplicity of it all (or rather not listening to me bitch about the lights, needles, putting the water in daily, etc. ), so you're right. Traditions are what we make them. And a holiday shout out to Yankee Candle "Holiday Wreath" scent that fakes out even me some evenings.

  3. Oh, yes, Yankee Candle makes my holiday complete.  Who needs to bake? Just buy a Christmas cookie candle! Who need a fireplace? Just get a wood scent from Yankee Candle. No need to clean the house, Yankee Candle has a clean house candle – and a fresh linen!  Now they need a special scent for when you're depressed from spending all your money on Yankee Candles.

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