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East Texas families kick off holiday season with trips to area tree farms

By Richard Yeakley
Nov. 24, 2012 at 10 p.m.

KILGORE - For as long as she can remember, one East Texas newlywed has spent the Saturday after Thanksgiving picking and buying a Christmas tree.

Kayla Pannell, who married her husband Clint in October, made no exception this year when the couple went to Danville Farms on Saturday and bought, what was for them, the perfect tree.

About 6 feet tall, thin enough to fit in their new home, and well groomed, the tree was exactly what the Pannells wanted, and was, Kayla Pannell said, a very fitting start to many Christmas traditions.

For many East Texans, once the turkey has settled and thanks have been given, the true beginning of the Christmas season is the annual trek to a tree farm to chop down a Christmas tree.

"It's a tradition for some families," said James Robinson, who along with his family runs the Danville Farms Christmas Tree Farm. "The children come out and play and they pick their trees."

Kristi Barefield, Pannell's mother, said she was excited to see the tradition pass from her generation to her daughter's.

"What makes it all the more special is that she prompted it. Earlier this week she said, 'We are going to get a tree on Saturday, right?'" Barefield said.

For the family, choosing the perfect tree always leads to a disagreement between the mother - who wants a "Charlie Brown" unkempt tree - and the children, who want a perfectly sculpted decoration.

It also marks the beginning of the Christmas season and all the traditions that follow including Christmas music and candles while decorating the tree the moment it gets home, Barefield said.

But while some have never stopped buying real trees to usher in the Christmas season, others, like Connor and Kristin Wilson said their family had let the tradition go, but are bringing it back.

The Wilsons brought their four children to Danville Farms on Saturday - Alli, 5, Peyton, 4, Drue, 3, and Brody, 1.

"We did it all growing up, it's just a tradition we wanted," Kristin Wilson said.

And some, like Amanda and Chris Childress make the annual tree choosing a family tradition often visiting a tree farm with 20 family members, others like Marya Wright, think the special traditions with immediate family are what make the holiday special.

Wright said she, her husband Adam, and her children Kailey, 9, and Cade, 4, always get cookie cake on the way to a Christmas tree farm and decorate the cake while eating pizza that evening.

Kailey described picking the tree as "her favorite tradition" as she surveyed the year's option.

Robinson, who said the family has operated the farm for 26 years said the tradition is important for his family too.

His grown daughters, who were in high school when the family started selling crops of Fraser Firs, make an effort to come back the first weekend the farm is opened each year - the day after Thanks-giving.



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