The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree


The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree **** by Gloria Huston

I’m joining Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

 This story takes place in a little mountain town in North Carolina.

We visited Spruce Pine this past weekend for a taste of small town mountain life, and were greeted with a flurry of large fluffy snowflakes for well over an hour. . . just enough to whet your appetite and evoke a holiday atmosphere~ ideal for the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree :-)

  Set in 1918, Armistice has been declared, but Ruthie is still waiting for her father’s return to their little Appalachian town. According to the traditions of Pine Grove, it falls to Ruthie and her mother to bring home the perfect Christmas tree to donate to the town church, which the previous spring Ruthie and her father selected and marked with a red ribbon. By the light of the moon, Ruthie and her mother make the trek to cut it down & haul it home, which becomes the basis of a new town legend. Ruthie, chosen for the role of the heavenly angel in the Christmas nativity play, longs for a new dress with sleeves that look like angel wings as well as a doll with a dress trimmed in ribbon & lace. Her mother miraculously makes Ruthie’s dreams come true, despite the lack of money and cloth to make such a dress.

Author Gloria Houston was born and raised in the Ingalls community, just outside of Spruce Pine, North Carolina. Her parents were the owners of a country store for over 50 years, and she often cites her experiences at the store as inspiration for her writing.

 During the Christmas season of 2003, Gloria Houston gave a gift to the small town of Spruce Pine, North Carolina~ the rights to her award-winning children’s book, The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. This gift was a small miracle for this town. . .over the preceding months, Spruce Pine and Mitchell County had suffered serious economic challenges, losing thousands of textile, furniture and other manufacturing jobs to outsourcing.

 From that original idea, the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree project was born. With entrepreneurial development as a primary focus, the project has created nearly 100 individual small businesses that have produced quality, handmade products as part of the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree collection. The project also serves as a scholarship tool, with a portion of royalties received from product sales used to fund a scholarship program is to combat the alarmingly low student retention rate at Mitchell High School, the only high school in the county.

Ruthie waits for her father to return by train:

“The days passed. Ruthie listened for the squeaky whistle of the little train the mountain folk called Tweetsie, as it chugged through the valley and up the mountain side.”

“Finally they saw it. Growing on the edge of a high cliff on Grandfather Mountain.”

Cinnamon Streusel Cake~ with drifts of snowy powdered sugar~

“Its green color was dark and rich. It was the perfect shape and size, its tip-tip-top pointing up to the heaven.”

“Gloria Houston’s The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Barbara Cooney, was published in 1988, and has become a seasonal classic – a touching and joyful story about courage and the power of family.”

Thank you for your visit, I’m joining:

  37 comments for “The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

  1. December 6, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    What a beautiful little town in the mountains of NC!! I just bet you had a wonderful visit! Sounds like a very interesting book!!

  2. December 6, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Mary this post is beautiful. The photos are wonderful. Love this post!

  3. December 6, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Mary, I can’t believe I’ve never know about this book. Thanks for introducing me to this sweet story. Your photos are perfection. I tend to favor trains! The vistas, the snowy shots, and that snow capped cake are all sheer delights. Wonderful post! ~ Sarah

  4. December 6, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    its dinner time and i have to rush, but not before i GUSH! i so love seeing you play, getting out in the snow, visiting trees, does life imitating art get any better?!

    what a great story about the town :)

    you know that snowy train shot is truly award winning… scott loves trains, maybe just once he will willing look at a food for thought!

    oh those trees are as good as the train! and wow, that painting really looked the train, fooled me! i love all your tree farm pics, such a happy time of the year~

    and your cake… naturally your tie is incredible! i love your artistry~

    ok gotta run, dinner, but you are so good its like your sinner, as in so good its bad!

  5. December 7, 2010 at 9:45 am

    So pretty..from the scenery to the trees to the cake.. really all beautifully put together!

  6. December 7, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    What an extraordinary post! The story sounds so sweet and the photos you included are so perfect to illustrate the book! I will look for this one as it is new to me.

    So nice stopping by to visit with you!!!

  7. Carolyn
    December 7, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Oh Mary, you evoked happy childhood memories for me when I saw the train photos. As a 6 year old, we lived near a train track and I loved to stand and wave at the caboose man. He would always wave back to me and one Christmas, as the train’s caboose was in front of my house, my caboose man threw out a cardboard box. I dragged it into the house and my mom helped me open it. It had coloring books, crayons and a small baby doll whose clothes seemed to have been home made. Our family was needy at this Christmas season and I was so excited that “my” caboose man had wanted me to have a little something special.
    This little book is new to me and your photo montage brought it to life. Thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas CGE

  8. December 7, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    I love your pictures and how it corresponds with the book. Great post!

  9. December 8, 2010 at 5:40 am

    What wonderful mosiac photo’s…and a cute place to visit. Your cake looks divine and a wonderful book!A great post! Yvette x

  10. December 8, 2010 at 7:44 am

    Wonderful post! You took me back a few years and told me today something I never knew and that was this story. Always I have looked for and purchased this Christmas Card “Ruthie waiting for her dad at the train station”, never knowing its story. Thank you

  11. December 8, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    some wonderful pictures remind me a bit of home where a train depot was so many trains were tehre as well each year santa would come to town on the train

  12. December 8, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    We love Spruce Pine and enjoyed all the photo’s and words.

  13. December 8, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    What a wonderful post…and your photos were just wonderful! Such a kind gift to give the Town…it looks like such a charming place.

  14. December 9, 2010 at 10:58 am

    I was delighted to see this post — this is one of my all-time favorite Christmas books, and I’ve read it to my children and grandchildren many times and shared it with two different book groups. I can hardly get through without crying, though! Just a wonderful, wonderful story!

  15. Vee
    December 12, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Such a special post telling us about Gloria Houston and her amazing gift to this community. I so want to get that book now. I love your beautiful cake and since I also have that pan, I now want to bake a cake where the train goes around the mountain.

  16. December 12, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    What a wonderful story! Thanks for taking us along. . . and for the snowflakes.

  17. December 12, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Just look at all those perfect trees .. including the edible ones, too!!! Wonderful book. Love the trains, too!

  18. December 12, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    Oh what a wonderful post! Thanks so much for sharing at MM> :)

  19. December 12, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Lovely post. We lived 20 minutes from Spruce Pine and loved visiting. So glad the town is doing a bit better.

  20. December 12, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    I really enjoyed seeing all your photos. I’ll have to look for that book to add to my Christmas collection.

  21. December 12, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Gorgeous photos! We live part of the year in Western NC! Love seeing the photos today! And I’m going to try to find this sweet little book! I collect childrens books and this is one I know I would enjoy! Thanks and happy holidays! ♥

  22. December 12, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    What beautiful shots! All so stunning! and the cake look fabulous!

  23. December 13, 2010 at 12:18 am

    Gloria Houston is such a generous lady. What a great way to help the community become creative in their fundraising. Your posting is fabulous.

  24. December 13, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Oh my what a wonderful post. The pictures are so lovely and the story a delight! Wishing you well!

  25. Elizabeth
    December 15, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Hello! Found you from Mary’s Little Red House and it was a truly lucky and beautiful find because you’ve written about a book I lost track of. You see, I checked this story from the library many years ago to read with my daughter and we loved it, but I returned it and simply could not recall the title. I remembered the pictures, the words, but through these years could not find the memory of the title. Thank you! Your photos are beautiful as you share this wonderful book. So nice to find you, will come back when I have time to browse through your virtual world!

    Enjoy a lovely and peace-filled Christmas.

  26. December 16, 2010 at 2:39 am

    Goodness that book has been around that long and I’ve never read it?? Well you can be sure I’m going to remedy that as soon as possible!
    I so enjoyed this post – the photos are wonderful and beautiful and I am such a book lover you couldn’t have caught my attention with a better topic. :)

  27. December 7, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    I love this! I have never seen that book, but will pick one up for when the grandkids visit for Christmas…

  28. December 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    I love how the author’s simple act reaped such a much-needed bounty for the town.

  29. December 7, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    This is so lovely! I must find this book for my grandchildren. How nice to know some of the profit will go to a good cause!

  30. December 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Cooll book!

  31. December 7, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    This story sounds wonderful. The author donating to the town is a amazing gift. What cute town!

  32. December 8, 2011 at 2:09 am

    what a sweet story. You have some really nice shots. Love the one of the blue and gold train in the snow coming toward you and several of the tree photos!

  33. Pondside
    December 8, 2011 at 2:59 am

    I can see why this book has become a classic – it’s very sweet and would appeal to young and old alike.
    I love that cake!

  34. December 8, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    I am just writing you a quick note as I need to rush of to Amazon and order this book. I am so excited to have this is my Christmas book collection loved the pictures thank you

  35. December 10, 2011 at 12:36 am

    Fascinating information. Photos are awesome. I’m doing some virtual tasting of that Streusel cake with a nice, hot cup of tea…yum.
    Excellent post this week!
    Thanks for sharing.

    For ref:
    Eleven Roses And You

  36. December 12, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    What a beautiful, beautiful post.

    This was absolutely charming and lovely.

    This sounds like I book I’d dearly love to read.

    Thanks for an excellent link for the letter “E” this week.


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