The Slide Years: Christmas Tree

By Eilene Lyon

The Slide Years is a series in which I select an image my dad took from 1957-1982 with Kodachrome slide film, then I write a stream-of-consciousness essay – a sort of mini-memoir.


When we arrived in Guatemala in January 1974, Christmas was the furthest thing from our minds. But as the holiday season rolled around, we came to realize that we’d have to get used to more than just a lack of cold, snowy weather for Christmas.

There were none of those seemingly ordinary things that symbolize Christmas to so many people around the world: an evergreen tree. No carefully cultivated firs, pines or spruce trees carved into perfectly conical submission. Not one.

Instead, those crafty Guatemalans cut down completely ordinary deciduous trees, stripped them bare (leaves did not fall off in autumn there, either), and painted them silver – perhaps in some misguided attempt to make it look like a northern winter scene.

As the holiday came barreling down to the wire, we made the decision to go with the locally available décor for our living room. This “tree” was actually cobbled from two separate ones screwed together.

We strung up our big, sturdy electric lights and hung our collection of ornaments. The silver paint and floor-to-ceiling windows behind the tree echoed the colorful beams. I carefully draped the aluminum tinsel. I thought it looked pretty darn cool. My brothers declared it an abomination.

The next year we had fake fir.

33 thoughts on “The Slide Years: Christmas Tree

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  1. We moved to Puerto Rico right after Christmas of ’76. Just in time for the celebration of Three Kings Day there. While I would love to say I immersed myself in this newfound culture, the truth of the matter is it felt so odd to me. I missed the snow and the Christmas trees. There was a lot I really loved about living there, but at ten years old, I missed the traditional aspects of the holiday here at home.

    Merry Christmas Eilene

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of my favorite holiday traditions in Guatemala was everyone in the city setting off fireworks at midnight. I was born a pyro and had a blast. The smoke got so thick you could barely see the next street light down the block.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I remember making a similar tree when I was in Middle school in Mexico, as part of my Workshop Class, kind of a Home Economics class. My dad helped me collect dry branches in a forest in the outskirts of the city, and at school, I painted them white and glued some Styrofoam beads on top (you are right, trying to make it look like snow). I went for a minimalistic look with all-red glass balls hanging from red ribbons. I think those were actually trendy in the mid 1970s, at least in Mexico, but as Christmas décor, not the main Christmas tree. Thank you for triggering this memory, Eilene, Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

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