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I write this I've just finished reading the entries in the magazine's Holiday Short Fiction Contest, the winners of which will be published next week. One recurring theme this year was the picking out of a Christmas tree. Kids as young as 8 as well as adults wrote about families squabbling over their trees, the children blaming the moms for misshapen trees and so on. But not one entry did I get about how much fun tree shopping is. (Although all the stories end with someone saying, once the tree is in the house and decorated, "This is the best Christmas tree ever!")

In my own family we've finally solved the tree-selecting problem. Last year my husband and daughter simply refused to go with me. It's always bitter cold, we always pay too much, and all the needles always fall off before we get it home. One year we did buy a live tree from a nursery, but it had to stay on the unheated sun porch to survive; we'd go out for short periods of time to visit it. Christmas wasn't quite the same that year.

However you deal with the tree-buying ritual in your family, if you celebrate Christmas -- and don't believe in artificial trees -- it's probably a significant part of your holiday. In this week's magazine, staff writer Patrick McGuire and Sun photographer Perry Thorsvik will take you on perhaps your most pleasant trip ever to a Christmas tree farm -- the trees are beautiful, there's no need to worry about the cold, and it will cost you nothing.

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