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  • Writer's pictureRamee

How the Upside-Down Christmas Tree Family Tradition Started 65 Years Ago

Updated: Jan 11

As has been apparent on my social media over the years, we have a different take on the traditional Christmas Tree in our home. I've grown up with people saying it's weird, cool, interesting or ridiculous. Really, it's all of those things. But it's a family tradition and we love it, as do our extended family that carry it on with us!

When my sister and I were kids we would have classmates ask us questions about it. That still hasn't changed. People are intrigued and wonder about the logistics of how it's hung, how we water it, and where the star goes. Other queries are a little sillier, like asking where we put the presents and if we staple them to the ceiling.

Here's a fun reel I recently put together showing how its hung:

But mostly, people ask us why.

It all started with my Papa Donald, my Mom's Dad. Whether being born in Newfoundland had anything to do with it, or if it's just a family trait, he was a natural born character and a bit of a rule breaker. Case in point: he was shipped off to air force training for the Second World War one week after he married my Nana. So what does he do? He 'borrows' a plane from training camp to fly home and visit her. He wasn't a thief, he brought it back. His superiors didn't see it that way though, and upon his return, he landed himself in the brig.

He must have missed the barracks life for in 1958 Donald and his wife Bernice found themselves in her parents' family home with his in-laws, 6 kids, a dog and a couple of cats. Tight quarters, for sure, and this is where the seed of the upside down Christmas tree sprouted. Like all good family tales, the actual origin is a bit foggy. There are two versions that people hold to and the reality likely shares elements of both.

The version that I remember is that my Papa Donald was tired of having the tree getting turned into a giant playground by the cats, who would inevitable knock it over. Adding that to the annual frustration of having to relocate furniture with no place to go, he didn't so much as think outside the box as invert and toss it in the air. His reasoning for this crazy idea was that by hanging the tree in the corner, it would save space, thus reducing the furniture rearrangement, and keep the cats from knocking it over.

My cousin recalls a slightly different version, but sounds very much like the Donald that we knew.

The story as I know it is that the Donald brought home a tree that was way too big and when he was met with the question,
"Where the hell do you think this is going to go?"
he replied with, "I will hang it from the ceiling."
From then on it was just understood that it is the right way, and the regular way is stupid.

How's that for a family tradition starter?

'The regular way is stupid' does make for a pretty unorthodox creative mantra.

However it happened, it stuck, and was continued with three of his six children and their families. Then several of the grandchildren continued on with this quirky family tradition and now with my sister and cousins we've been keeping it continuous for over 68 years! Pretty cool, right?

A newspaper article with my cousin Aaron at 7 years old sharing our family tradition in 1981. - Port Perry Star

Even family on the other side of the blood connection adopted it, such as my Uncle Wayne's brother, and have kept it going along with his grown kids and their families.

I grew up having an upside-down Christmas tree almost my entire childhood...except for that ONE dreadful year. I will share that story and a picture at the's a doozy. We still haven't forgiven my father for it, even after he's gone.

Now let's share pictures of our upside-down tree from this year, along with some from my extended family.

Our Christmas tree with our 18 month old Lab Retriever Chewie.

The star is an ornament so it hangs from the bottom. Ours is made up of small silver jingle bells.

View of the Christmas tree from the sofa, and with Chewie again.

Our Christmas tree from 2022 with all three dogs, Chewie, Link and Dodger.

Now for other family members Christmas trees:

My sister's family Christmas tree with their dog Lemmy in the wingback chair.

My cousin Aaron's family Christmas tree with their dog Rusty...must be a theme lol.

My Aunt Maureen (my Mom's sister) and Uncle Tom finally tried it out one year.

As you can see, with every kind of Christmas tree - whether fir, pine, or spruce, along with the shape and the decorations and personal styling make each one unique.

As for that story of our infamous Christmas year that my family will never forget and never let my Dad live down (even now in spirit). It was 1988 and our Dad came home with the Christmas tree, where he exclaimed "let's put the tree up the regular way this year!". To which my Mom, sister, and I replied with adamant disagreement. My Dad had his heart set for whatever reason. However, we didn't own a tree stand nor did he think to buy one. So he MacGyvered it. He plunked the trunk in a planter pot, and then with our looks of disgust as we watched, he proceeded to wrap the swag lamp chain around the top to secure it upright. He was proud of himself, ignoring our reaction. My sister and I refused to decorate it but my Mom stoically swallowed her own feelings and made us join in for sake of a happy family Christmas.

We grew up referring to that year as The Christmas That Didn't Exist. Sometimes I even find myself doubting my own memory of just how bad it was. But there is evidence:

The Christmas that wasn't. 1988 and my Dad thought it would be 'fun' to have the tree the 'regular' way, but without a stand McGuyvered it.

Ralphie didn't know how lucky he was that all his dad did was put up a fishnet stocking lamp.

So what do you think of our family tradition? Weird, cool, interesting, or ridiculous? Or all of the above? We love it for all of it, and hopefully some of our children will carry it on after us and keep the tradition alive!

Decorating the tree a few years ago.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Yours in Design,

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