Our Jolly Holly Christmas Tree

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I believe we all know the feeling of when something is not quite right.  The feeling grows and grows until you decide assertively (sometimes in a matter of seconds) that “No, this just won’t do.”  That explains my feeling early Sunday evening as I unpacked the first section of our artificial Christmas tree.  I opened the mechanical folding branches, let out a sigh, and that feeling hit me.  I didn’t want to have a fake tree anymore.

My home State of Maine is nicknamed “The Pine Tree State” and growing up we always had a real  Christmas tree.

For the first many years after we moved here, we rented and outgrew a few different houses while Johnny spent most of his time solely refurbishing our future forever home–the home that his mother grew up in.  Those days feel like a blurry whirlwind in many ways… five children in six years, living out of boxes that were in storage somewhere other than where we were living and getting used to a different language and culture.  And living on an island takes its own getting used to–off the coast of Ireland or off the coast of anywhere.

It was a wonderful stretching and growing time for us that had the downside of, somewhere along the way, our purchasing a fake tree.  Having never had one before, I didn’t know how much I would dislike it but dislike it I do.

Last year’s Christmas tree was a live potted fir we purchased and had sent in from the mainland.  It now grows in our garden amidst raspberry and strawberry plants and has been a happy reminder of the past holiday season, although I don’t think it’s perfectly happy with the alkaline soil.  Having made no plans for this year’s tree, but under pressure from the children to answer the repeated question of “When are we going to put up the tree?”, the faux fir again made an appearance.

In response to my “sigh,” Johnny had a suggestion.  How about we cut a holly tree.  “That’s what we did when I was growing up,” he said.  I loved the idea so that’s what we did the very next morning.

It was cold and brisk but the sun was shining brightly.

cows in field

We found a tree we liked immediately but decided to leave it, walk on, and look further into other fields.  This extra walking ended up being the best part of the day.

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At one point, I wished I had packed a picnic lunch so we could just sit and take in the view.  At the very least, a flask of tea would’ve been nice.

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The first holly tree we found will be just right so we trekked back to cut it.  We planted it in a container of potting soil with some rooting hormone added; it might root, it might not.  Either way, we have nothing to lose and possibly a tree gained.  After being potted it stands about five and a half feet tall, just the right size.  A couple of spots needed some filling in so I cut spare branches for that use and stuck them right into the soil.

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We’ve already donated the fake tree and are looking forward to the renewed tradition of having a holly tree each year instead.  It’s not the fir tree I grew up with, but it feels just as good as if it were. 🙂

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This is a post I wrote last Christmas 2014. My blog was just a month new and I had very few readers.  Below is an awesome trio of our jolly holly Christmas tree 2015 while the multi-coloured lights transition between colours.

I hope you’re overflowing with happiness and merriment my friends!  Melissa Xx

holly tree collage


  1. Those are some of the best childhood memories they could have. Ours are a bit too young/small to trek through the fields we were in, unfortunately, or we would have done the same. I like that you collected “fallen branches.”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. bluedaisyz says:

    It’s funny how a real tree can feel so much better, isn’t it? After growing up in Canada, ALWAYS having a real tree, I have to have a real tree each year, too!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Jamie! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. We have really enjoyed our holly tree, and that it’s a tradition of my husbands makes it even better. Such a nice childhood memory… one that I’m happy my children will grow up with as well 🙂 Happy New Year. Melissa

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I like your idea about a live tree in soil, so you don’t kill it to get it inside. When I kept the Christmas for many years for my kids and family, we always had a pine tree and only few times in soil. It is difficult to buy in soil, when you wish for a big tree. Happy Christmas to you and your family Melissa 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Murtagh's Meadow says:

    I so agree with you – it is so nice to have a natural Christmas tree. Usually we decorate branches inside and have our tree outside on our outside porch. I am currently working on a new idea which, if successful, I will post later in week. Hope you and your family have a great Christmas:)

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Melissa, beautiful story and photos, glad you have found your Christmas tree, and have this lovely memory of all you got it. I’m sure many years from now, maybe when you are a grandma, you can tell this story to your grandkids.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. pagedogs says:

    I absolutely loved this (re)post. Having moved a lot, we have had just about every kind of Christmas tree over the years. But never holly. It’s lovely and efficient–you can combine two Christmas traditions in one! Plus it’s local and part of your husband’s family tradition. Very, very sweet.

    Your first and last photos of this post are just wonderful. And, by the way, your home state of Maine is very unChristmaslike on the weather front. We cut a fragrant balsam last weekend dressed in our shirtsleeves it was so warm. No white Christmas here this year.

    Happy Solstice and Christmas to you and your family!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is what my folks have been saying. So odd isn’t it?! We too are having very mild weather, nothing like you all in Maine, but unusual for us just the same.

      The holly is nice being considered so Christmasy and al,l but it is quite sharp compared to fir. It is an acceptable alternative for sure!

      Happy Solstice and Holidays to you and yours also!!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Sarah says:

    Lovely. 😀 A bit prickly when decorating, I bet. 😉 I’m curious, did last year’s tree root?
    I hate fake trees too but we have to make do with one this year. 😦 It makes the real ones so much more wonderful when one can manage to get one though. Maybe next year…
    I hope you and yours have a fabulous Christmas, Melissa. My best wishes to you all. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Donna George says:

    Melissa, I continue to admire your determined spirit to not give up or to settle. The Holly tree is so beautiful and a fun, creative way to usher in Christmas for your home. We have a vacation cabin home nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, near Boone, NC in a town called West Jefferson Its the Christmas Tree capital of the world. I post sometimes about being up there enjoying the snow in the peak season, (as it’s never snowing where we live on the coast). However, my point is that being surrounded by thousands of rolling Christmas Tree Frazier Firs and White Pines, I find a Holly Tree idea refreshing!!! The berries are gorgeous.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. chef mimi says:

    Beautiful. I never would have thought of a holly tree, and all I can think of is “ouch” because I hate trimming my holly bushes! But it’s beautiful as a Christmas tree. Love the rock walls in Ireland and all over the UK. They go on forever and ever.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I took a super photo from the window of the small island plane earlier this week as we were approaching the island coming from Galway…it looks like a quilt with stone wall borders. I’m sure it has purpose in a future post I’ve yet to think of. Those walls are something to admire alright, thanks for mentioning them. 🙂

      As the tree goes, ‘ouch’ is right! Hollies everywhere and I never thought of it either. I can appreciate Johnny’s family tradition of always having a holly, much like mine of always having a fir. That is what makes it worth the pricks and stings. It’s very pretty too!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Melissa Shaw-Smith says:

    Most years it takes us longer to wrangle the pine tree–grown at the farm down the road from us–into our little old house than it takes to decorate it. Today was no exception, but the scent of the fresh pine sap is worth all the hassle. Your holly tree looks joyful. Hope you have happy, peaceful holidays. Best, Melissa


  11. Very resourceful! One year we thought we’d change things up a bit…..yes, back here in our beloved State of Maine…where traditions are held tight…we cut a small white birch, placed it in a beautiful pot, and strung lights the on. Not too bad, but the kids, without trying to hurt my feelings, requested the traditional balsam fir the next year. O well. I think the Holly is brilliant, and it sounds like the trek of going out to source just the right one, great fun! Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas….blessings to each and every one of you….THE TREE LOOKS GREAT!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I have been having a hard time letting go of the holidays this year, and it has been such fun this morning to be able to just give in to the desire by catching up on your wonderful holiday posts.

    Grew up on a Christmas Tree Farm so you have my heart with this one. We had a very large Holly Tree in our front yard and each Christmas my father would use long flexible poles to place strong of lights on it. They would stay put during wind and weather and made quite a beacon when lit.

    Thank you for your lovely post Melissa. I enjoy your website very much. X0X- JoHanna

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww, really?! A Christmas Tree Farm?How dreamy is that? I loved visiting them as a child and helping pick out the tree. How I would love to have outside lights on our tree but the wind is so fierce. The poles idea is worth discussing with Johnny…

      I must admit that I am not so sad to wind down the season though. Just finished taking the tree down and packing away the decorations. It’s as lovely a feeling to undecorate as is putting them all up at the start of season. Now I’m looking forward to browsing seed catalogues, and watching daffodils bloom 😉 Would a holly tree survive in your climate? Maybe too hot…would make a nice reminder of Christmas year round 🙂

      Thanks for your heartfelt appreciation. It means so much to me!

      Liked by 1 person

      • There are in fact soft leaved hollies from somewhere else that seem to be doing really well here as hedges. And there is an oak scrub native to the area whose leaves look and have the texture of holy leaves. One of those would handle lights well.

        Looking forward to following your journey in 2016. XoX-JoHanna



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