Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Finding a Charlie Brown Christmas tree in Faribault December 10, 2020

Our family Christmas tree always sat on the end of the kitchen table, as shown in this Christmas 1964 photo. That’s me in the red jumper with four of my five siblings.

EACH DECEMBER, I FIND myself on a quest for a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. I like my tree small, shaped by nature and reminiscent of the Christmas trees of my youth. Those tinseled childhood trees sat on the end of the Formica kitchen table in our cramped southwestern Minnesota farmhouse.

Even though I live in a house with more room, although small by today’s standards, I still want a basic short-needled Charlie Brown tree. Such a tree brings back many happy holiday memories.

Some of the trees available at Ken’s Christmas Trees.

I’ve found a source for such a tree here in Faribault, my go-to spot for the past several Christmases, although last year I didn’t get a tree. It had been a challenging year and I just did not feel up to holiday decorating.

But this year is different. This year I want, need, the joy of Christmas decorations filling my house. With lights. Tinsel. Candle angels and Santas and a snowman that I’ve had for decades. A wooden stable handcrafted by my maternal grandpa along with figurines cast in plaster of Paris. Plastic nativities gifted to me by Sunday School teachers more than 50 years ago. The scent of pine.

Ken’s Christmas Trees, located behind Taco John’s.

This is the stuff of Christmas in my house. All of these are meaningful, connected to places, people, experiences. Joy. The Charlie Brown tree I found at Ken’s Christmas Trees (formerly Kuntze Christmas Tree Lot now at a new location and with a new name, but still operated by the Mueller family) makes my heart happy.

Randy and I bought our tree earlier than usual this year. I figured Ken’s would have a run on trees given three local businesses that once sold trees are either out of business or no longer selling them. It seems my decision to buy early was a smart one. As we pulled into Ken’s new location, sandwiched in a lot between Taco John’s and a house just off Minnesota State Highway 21/Rice County Road 48 near its intersection with Highway 60, others were arriving to purchase trees in a steady stream.

Ken’s features Charlie Brown trees.

“I need a Charlie Brown tree,” I announced to Ken’s son, TJ, upon greeting him. He assured me that’s all they had.

Tools of the Christmas tree trade and also the table for sawing the ends of trunks.

I’m not all that particular about our tree—although Randy may disagree—so we quickly chose a tree. I noticed that Ken’s inventory differed from previous years with long and lean trees. I prefer mine shorter rather than tall and pencil thin.

TJ fastens our tree for the short drive across town.

No matter, these trees are proving popular. Not only with the locals, but with folks from the Twin Cities metro who are driving to Faribault to buy these old-fashioned Charlie Brown style Christmas trees. I overheard TJ telling a customer that.

Our tree, cut and ready to take inside the house after Randy sawed the trunk.

He’s a friendly young man, just like his dad. TJ offered to saw the end of the trunk for optimal water uptake. Randy opted out. And then he secured the tree to the top of our van, asking how far we were traveling to assure the tree stayed put. With that done, TJ thanked us and added, “God bless you folks.”

The tree in a corner of our living room, awaiting a Christmas tree skirt and decorating.

I left feeling grateful for my Charlie Brown Christmas tree and for the wonderful experience of buying local from a family that exudes joy.

Signage and a rustic tree (which I love) mark the entrance to Ken’s Christmas Tree lot.

TELL ME: Do you buy a real Christmas tree? If so, what’s your source and what type of tree do you purchase?

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling