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Most people know someone (or are someone) who has hung on to a live Christmas tree much longer than they should have. Perhaps you have spotted some of these sparse trunks, still draped with tinsel and shedding needles, on the curbside waiting for the trash collector.
A family in Southern California decided to keep their tree long after the holidays were over, but instead of a dried-out fire hazard, they ended up with a family treasure that has lasted for decades.
In 1983, Gina and Joe Mistretta went shopping for a real Christmas tree. They came home with a 3-foot-tall potted Scotch pine. The tiny tree could only handle a single string of lights, but the young couple couldn’t bear to part with it once Christmas had passed. So instead, they moved it from their living room to their backyard.
As the years went by, the tree flourished.
“I enjoy trimming it, I go out there, I spend a little time with it,” Joe Mistretta told CBS News in 2017. “Yeah, I’m a tree talker now.”
As the tree grew, so did the family. He repotted the evergreen, which has survived the birth of the couple’s sons, a move and even a fire. Eventually, the Mistretta clan doubled the size of their front door just to make rolling the nearly 300-pound tree indoors every holiday season possible.
It might not look like the picture-perfect trees often sold at tree lots in the winter, but it suits the Mistrettas just fine.
“There is no perfect life, there is no perfect tree and we like it that way,” Gina Mistretta told CBS News. “And the ornaments that we put on it are not perfectly put in the perfect spot, but they mean something to us.”
Although the family hasn’t made a public update on their Christmas tree since 2017, we’d like to think it is still thriving. And with good reason, it seems, as Scotch pines can live for a hundred years or longer!
“You’ll spread our ashes in it,” Joe Mistretta once joked to the OC Register.