The Longenecker Christmas Tree & Charlie Brown

The Longenecker Christmas Tree.

Well, there was none. Not one. Not ever. Despite the fact that the Christmas song, “O Tannenbaum” is of German origin, most Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonite homes of the 1950s and 60s did not light Christmas trees. Decorated trees were lumped together with other worldly pleasures like jewelry, makeup, and movies and therefore not permitted. At least the Ray Longenecker family did not have one. We were plain and I longed for some fancy.

One year I found a limb from our maple tree out front with little branches that looked as forlorn as Charlie Brown’s tree. I brought it into the living room and tried to find trinkets and a red ribbon or two for decoration.

It was a sad little tree. It looked something like this, only wedged into our living room radiator and anchored by balled-up newspaper no doubt.


Good grief! I know how Charlie Brown must have felt. But at least his had “a wooden trunk and soft green needles” with a red ball on the end of a branch instead of a timid little ribbon.


Charlie Brown’s luck seems to change when Lucy appoints him as director of the Christmas play in which Linus reads Luke 2 from scripture. After the play, the performers migrate outdoors toward Charlie’s sagging tree. Charlie Brown eventually gets his wish for a fine Christmas tree as the gang “donate” the festive string of lights from Snoopy’s doghouse to the dress up the little tree. Charity in action.


No, there was no Christmas tree in our home or in the sanctuary of my family’s home church, Bossler’s Mennonite Church. But like Linus and friends, we heard the Christmas story from Luke 2 faithfully recited and at the end of the service, we received hand-outs of navel oranges every year, the orange orbs passed hand to hand down the rows.

Nowadays in the Longenecker-Beaman home there is a happy fir tree, bedecked with ornaments from several generations. And we all rehearse the precious old story of the nativity in the Bible passage Luke 2 on Christmas morning.

A wondrous story, plain and simple, read beside a fanciful tree.

O Tannenbaum! Longenecker-Beaman Tree 2013
O Tannenbaum!  The Beaman Tree 2013

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, Glory to the Newborn King!     Sung by Charlie Brown   and friends

Add a Christmas tree tale from your past . . . or present. Join the conversation and I will add my little bit as I always do. 

Merry Christmas~~Merry Christmas~~Merry Christmas!

Coming next: Purple Passages with Time and Tiny Tim


36 thoughts on “The Longenecker Christmas Tree & Charlie Brown

    1. You mentioned that your grandparents spoke Yiddish, so I am guessing you have other interesting traditions this time of year, Merril.

      I am always happy to see your comments–thank you!


  1. I enjoyed reading your plain and fancy Christmas story — your tree is beautiful.

    One of my fun memories is about the decorating process. My mother said she was “petite,” but we called her short. At 5ft 8in tall I’m the one who got to hang the ornaments on the upper branches after the lights had been strung. When everything was said and done, dad would pick mom up so she could crown the very top with an angel wearing none other than the Hunter tartan plaid (my maiden name).


    1. Don’t you wish you had a photo of that . . . dad picking up mom to crown the tree! Maybe you do. That would be a treasure. At the very least, you carry the mental image as a keepsake.

      I’ve only ever seen your face and shoulders in photos. Now I can picture you as a happy, statuesque woman. Thanks for reading, commenting, and continuing the thread of story-telling, Laurie.


  2. I meant to tell you that writing must run in the Longenecker family. There was an article in last Monday’s FL Times Union section by Bill Longenecker.

    “My mind is a garden, my thoughts are the seeds; my harvest will be either flowers or weeds.” M Weldon



  3. Oh, yes, I have a Christmas tree tale! My mind travels back to the year I was 12 and my brother four. Mom told Dad she would see that a tree was selected and brought home. But she would wait for him to help her bring it in the house. Her excitement was at its peak because this year we were living in our first home with a fireplace. Well, Dad got home from work and the tree was brought in. It was too tall! So, Dad set about trimming limbs and trunk from the bottom, preserving the beautiful top. When Mom saw what he was doing, she dissolved into tears, screaming and shouting that he was destroying her tree. An argument ensued, and I truly thought Christmas was about to be destroyed. Finally, silence returned and that actually turned out to be one of the most beautiful trees I can remember us having. Mom had actually gone a little over the top when she picked what was likely the largest tree on the lot that morning. Memories are good. Thanks for always asking us to share ours.

    A very Merry Christmas to the Beamans and their kin! And a joy-filled 2014!


    1. I love your story. It reminds me of a tale in one of my grade school reading books in which the lady of the house brought in a too tall tree and solved the problem by cutting a whole in the roof! As I child I thought it was clever but a little dumb. Now as an adult it seems dumber than dumb.

      A Merry Christmas to the Meyers in Portland and a happy and prosperous new year to you all. We have plans to fly to Spokane in January to visit Cliff’s dad in failing health. His sisters from Vancouver plan to meet us there to celebrate 3 birthdays!


  4. NO Christmas tree in my Ontario home growing up either. One year a tree was being discarded at the school I taught. I decided to take it home and set it up in my parents’ living room where I also lived. My younger sister and I had great fun decorating it with the meager decorations we had and the string of lights that usually outlined the large window. Alas! Our lovely tree didn’t stay there long. When my parents came home we were told in no uncertain terms to get it out of the livingroom. We hauled it upstairs and enjoyed it in a bedroom. Thanks for reviving a memory.


    1. You’re welcome–my pleasure!

      In retrospect, it seems silly that a string of lights in your home was all right, but a tree was taboo, yet I am familiar with all the emotion surrounding toeing the line. “What would people think?” was such a strong motivation for keeping the rule of church law back then.


  5. I didn’t have the heart to get a tree this year. My dad and I used to pick one together after I made him walk five acres looking at each and every one. 🙂 I know the ornaments will keep for another year.


    1. I can tell you have been so very close to your dad, and your feelings are still so raw with his recent passing. Yes, Traci, the ornaments will keep for another year. May you feel both “comfort and joy” this season.


    1. Thank you. Did I mention that I remember gazing at my Aunt’s Swedish Christmas Chime as it tinkled with the warmth of candle flame? It was a tree of sorts but as a child it did not completely make up for the lack of a real, evergreen tree. A joyful Christmas season to you as well!


  6. We migrated from no tree to a cheap, scrawny one leftover on Christmas eve. Perhaps when I was ten or so. We loved Christmas and always had gifts, but they weren’t wrapped. A lot of the shopping was done the day before Christmas at the local drugstore or “five and ten.”

    Our parents, like yours, focused on the story in Luke and tried to keep the day holy rather than commercial. I appreciate that emphasis more every year. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Marian!


    1. I’m guessing our parents’ plain response to our wishes for a fancier one was rooted in frugality and church restrictions. At least, that was my conclusion.

      Our gifts were wrapped but usually practical – like clothing we needed, but sometimes books I loved. Now I’m over to read your Christmas Eve post!


  7. I tell you Marian I learn something new about Longenecker household. I never realized that there was never a tree there. I never even questioned it because I believe I was just so enchanted with our differences of life and loved theirs more then the one I was raised in.

    In Pennsylvannia I would take the kids to a Christmas tree farm to cut our own tree and tag our tree for next year. Oh it was such a wonderful time for the kids and I. Well I never cut our own tree I always had the man there do it. The first year he told me the purpose of this was for the people to enjoy cutting their own tree. I said yes I know I’m a city girl I don’t know how. Can you please do for me – I love the joy of seeing it cut. He would laugh and cut it for me This same conversation happened the 10 years I lived there. We still talk of how we would go have our tree cut. Great memories.
    Have a very merry Christmas to all if you.


    1. Gloria, I am sure there is a tree with presents underneath at your house right now. Back then we did have presents, but no tree. Thank you for the memory of your tree cutting in PA. Precious memories! Enjoy a Merry Christmas with your wonderful family!


  8. Marian — When we moved from Illinois to Idaho back in April, we gave our Christmas ornaments to our son so he could start his own traditions. Now living in the Carriage House (600 square feet) of the Russell Mansion, we decided not to bring a tree inside. Rather, we bought one string of white lights and found some simple red hearts to decorate a small tree outside. This new “tradition” has a different feel to it — equally heartwarming — but in a completely different way.

    The merriest of Christmases to you and yours!


    1. We have a loooong way to go before we celebrate Christmas in a minimalist way. I guess it really doesn’t matter though if the true spirit in there. In fact, I’m sure of it. Merry Christmas to you and Len!


  9. I love your beautiful Christmas tree but equally love the simple twig with a red ribbon on. If it is applied with love it is worth a thousand adorned trees.
    I have fond memories of family parties in our semi with an extension…the extension was the dance floor (it was tiny but it worked. I can see my Mum and Dancing to Perry Como, Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra etc. Silver Christmas tree, red baubles (this was the 1960s/ 70s) and not forgetting Corona cherry pop …my favorite mmmmmm.
    Happy Christmas Day to you and yours .


    1. I didn’t think of the sparsely decorated Christmas tree as beautiful in its simplicity because back then I yearned for a fancy tree. But as you point out, it certainly is. Thank you for evoking memories of our song idols of the 60s and 70s. And, yes, Corona cherry pop. Merry Christmas, Cherry!


  10. Hi Marian I didn’t think your twig ‘beautiful ‘ I thought ‘your’ tree ‘now’ was beautiful . The twig was adorned with the simplicity of a red bow , that in itself , had a certain quality . Glad I evoked memories for you as you have done for me.


  11. Lovely story Marian! You, and your followers, show how different households throughout our small world experience the Christmas tree in varying ways. However you do it, I hope everone enjoys this special time.


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