TREE TRADITIONS: Locals’ holiday decorations hold special meaning, memories | News

TREE TRADITIONS: Locals’ holiday decorations hold special meaning, memories | News

When it comes to decorating for Christmas, keeping it traditional can look different from family to family.

Tahlequah resident Cathy Fite Callaway has Christmas trees in nearly every room of her home, including the bathroom.

“[My family] left me alone one night and went to a basketball game. They came back home and had a tree in the bathroom. They were like, ‘What are you doing?’” said Callaway. “My family loves Christmas, too, but they think I go overboard.”

Callaway said she usually starts decorating for Christmas at the end of October. Her favorite area is the “antique room,” which has many items that belonged to her grandmother, Kate Fite.

“The antiques are all over 200 years old and from Echota House, which was my grandma’s home,” said Callaway.

The antique room holds several piece of furniture built by Callaway’s grandfather and is now decorated for the holidays with festive lights, garland, figurines, stockings, and at its center, a lit tree adorned with red bows, ornaments, and Christmas baubles.

Decorating for Christmas holds special meaning for Callaway.

“Back years ago, 1989 was horrible year on the home front,” she said. “My girls and I had little to nothing. My dad gave me $25 and he bought me a little 4-foot tree.”

Callaway said they had the best Christmas that year.

“Definitely a hard candy Christmas,” she said. “Presents didn’t matter but we missed the lights and decorations. So I promised my girls that someday, we would have a tree in every room and lots of lights. So all these years, I just kept adding small things and for the past few years I’ve decorated like I promised.”

Callaway pointed to the presents sitting underneath her main tree.

“And I’m not about presents. I mean, it looks like I have stuff down there – I do, but it’s nothing real expensive because I think that one Christmas taught me the real meaning of Christmas,” she said. “It wasn’t about getting these $100 this or $200 that, it’s about family being together and decorating, eating, and doing stuff like that.”

Tahlequah resident Carole Johnson Dill’s favorite Christmas tree is adorned with family photographs and memories.

“We put a couple of photos of our young children on the Christmas tree over 50 years ago. In a few years the photos had earned their own small tree,” said Johnson Dill.

Dill said the 7-foot tree is now filled with the lives of her family over the years.

“We are a blended family, so my husband and I have pictures of our first spouses, as well as memory ornaments honoring them,” she said. “Our parents, children and grandchildren are all on the tree.”

Johnson Dill’s husband, Henry Dill, is also proud of the tree, but said he is “the helper upon request.” Dill is now 90 years old, and a school photograph of him around age 8 hangs on the tree.

Johnson Dill said the photos have frames of all kinds – some purchased, some handmade – and the tree is completed with lights and garland.

“Our granddaughter just became engaged, and yes, the photo is on the tree awaiting their arrival Christmas Eve,” she said.