Everyone has a holiday tradition, and my family is no different. Our biggest tradition involves Black Friday shopping, but we aren’t shopping for toys, clothes, electronics or other doodads. We go shopping for a Christmas tree.

Black Friday usually means the entire family is free from work and open for activities. Six of us and two dogs hop in the family trickster, an old Subaru Outback, and head for the hills. The hills aren’t too far away since we already live in the country, but the cramped conditions, with one dog panting at your neck and the other one barking nonstop, creates a long ride.

Usually, the tree farms aren’t too busy, but the obnoxiously tall tree we demand is always in the back of the property. Saw in hand, we trek through the unplowed fields collecting thorns and seedpods on our pant legs. And to top it off, mom likes to feed the Yorkie-Shih tzu a bit much, so we always have to stop for the dog to catch his breath.

A few hours will pass by the time we find a nice 12-14 foot-tall tree. Since no one else buys these gems, they are often covered in poison ivy. What better way to celebrate the holidays than with a rash and ointment? Anyways, we saw away at the tree with the precision of a Civil War surgeon, and by the time we’re done, we realize we are a good mile away from the car. Everyone seemingly tries to grab onto the tree in one way or another, but it always ends up being Dad and I who have to drag the tree back.

For some reason we tend to get laughed at when we have to fit the behemoth on top of our small station wagon. Might be the fact that it juts out every which way or because we hold on to it through the sunroof. Who knows? But the next step, getting it into the house, always proves to be a blast.

The door is only so wide and the Christmas tree’s girth always extends beyond that. So with a push and a shove and a few lost needles, it’s in the living room. If we were not sick of the tree already, we now have to stand it up and decorate it with a closet’s worth of lights and ornaments. The decorations are usually tossed on with the help of a 10-foot-tall stepladder and we usually do it haphazardly because by then we are over Christmas. With an angel on top leaning a good 90 degrees, it signifies the decorating is done.

Ironically, we all tend to migrate to the sofas to watch Christmas Vacation. Most of us have probably seen it, but for those who have not had the pleasure, here is a very brief synopsis of the intro: read above. Well, a half-hour into watching it, Mom and Dad begin a snore fest, and soon everyone else realizes they are still covered in burrs and thorns – so we go our separate ways.

Friends and family always stare in awe when they enter our house for the holidays. Jokingly, they always seem to ask how tall the Christmas tree is and if we couldn’t find one any bigger. No matter how much of a hassle it may be to get a Christmas tree, it always requires the family to get together to share in a moment. Call us the Griswolds or old-fashioned, either way, we connect as a family, and that is my holiday tradition.