On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, 9 families, traveling from Arlington, Va., Shrewsbury, Penn., and cities in between, met up in rural Maryland to recreate a tradition born decades ago in New Jersey.
Shannon Marriott of Westminster, Md., spent her childhood in East Rutherford, N.J., kicking off the holiday season with a yearly tree-cutting tailgate her mother organized for their relatives and friends.
“We usually went the Saturday after Thanksgiving to tree farms near the Delaware Water Gap,” recalls Marriott. “Each family would bring donuts, cider and hot chocolate. Then we’d spend the afternoon roaming the woods.”
Nostalgic for this seasonal pastime, Marriott, now 32 with two sons, invited her tight-knit circle of friends (full disclosure, this writer is among them) to begin an annual tree finding celebration of their own.
“I love traditions, and I thought it was a good time to start with our group,” says Marriott. “Our kids are sprouting, and we need more occasions to get together.”
The group, which is connected through high school, college, marriages and now children, decided on Breezy Trees Farm because of its small size and safety from major highways, though there are countless tree farms throughout Maryland and Virginia for Washingtonians looking for an old-fashioned tree chopping experience (some even offer sleigh rides!).
Before heading to Breezy Trees the family living closest to the tree farm hosted a pot-luck brunch. As it was done back in East Rutherford, cocoa and cider were served alongside breakfast confections galore. Even a local photographer was hired to capture candid photos of the day. No one wanted the memories at the root of this family tree-cutting to be missed.
When it was time to leave for the farm, dads loaded saws into trucks, and moms bundled up toddlers. Then, as if on cue, a light snow started to fall. Setting off in search of the perfect pine everyone knew they had already found a Christmas custom that will be celebrated for years to come.