When Allison Protsko was a child, the arrival of the Christmas season meant going with her family to choose a Christmas tree, cut it down and move home.
This year, about a decade since the last time Ms. Protsko, 34, brought a real Christmas tree into her home, she decided to go to Bell’s Christmas Trees in Accord, NY with her children and boyfriend Joseph Storminger reviving a cherished family tradition.
“Just the smell of the tree brings back the feeling of Christmas and memories from childhood,” said Ms. Protsko.
The stress of 2020, including a runaway pandemic, protests against racial injustice and a highly competitive presidential election, left many Americans like Ms. Protsko reaching for scraps of joy wherever they could be found. The holidays offered an outlet.
As demand has increased, some pick-and-cut tree farms like Bell’s have sold out their supplies of Christmas trees for the first time. Elsewhere, retail space has been picked clean as families bought their first fresh Christmas trees or their first in a long time.
Bell’s Christmas Trees, about 100 miles north of New York City, has devoted about 25 of its 150 acres to caring for a dozen types of Christmas trees. The Bell family began planting trees in 1991 when they planned to turn away from the busy dairy business that the farm had focused on for decades.
The Christmas trees were more popular than expected and more were planted every year. This year their offer was sold out. Bell’s announced that the season will close on December 8, 15 days earlier than last year, in order to preserve the smaller, less-old trees that the farm expected to sell over the next year and years to come. “We can’t grow them fast enough,” said Brian Bell, one of the owners.
Just four days before Bell closed for the season, Ms. Protsko and her family drove about 45 minutes from their Montgomery, NY home to the farm. They cut a 14-foot tree, rolled it down a hill, and drove home with at least one foot sticking out of their truck.
“We’ll bring a tape measure next year,” she said.
Ms. Protsko said she wanted to make the vacation special for her children Richie, 5, and Will, 3, after a difficult year in which she and her husband separated.
They planned to decorate the tree together, line it with soothing white lights, and fill it with the Barbie ornaments from Ms. Protsko’s childhood and her children’s dinosaur ornaments.
“It’s not a big tree, perfect for a magazine,” she said. “It’s made up of memories over the years.”
Jacquelyn and Justin Swisher of Stone Ridge, NY bought a six foot tall tree from Bell’s, brought it home, and adorned it with family photos framed in ornamentation, including their wedding photo and a sonogram of their young son Cashton.
Ms. Swisher said she wanted to start new holiday traditions with Cashton, now 17 months old. He is looking forward to seeing Santa Claus.
She said the pandemic contributed to a grueling year in her career as a second grade teacher. Desperate for a safe and fun family activity, they went to Bell right after Thanksgiving to buy a real tree, their first as a family. Getting one, she said, will be her perfect Christmas tradition.
They returned to Bell on December 6th to find a tree for a sick colleague of Ms. Swisher’s. She and her husband were looking for the perfect tree when Cashton was walking around.
“I knew my son wanted a little adventure,” she said, “and if she knew he picked it up, it would probably make her smile.”
Having a festive home, Ms. Swisher said, is a great way to prepare for a fresh start next year if her family is hoping to leave the pandemic behind and focus on activities that are bright, fun, and positive.
“We wanted our home to be beautiful and special for the holiday season,” she said. “We hope what we have here is a nice start for 2021.”