When it's time to take down the tree and pack the decorations, there are fresh memories of the holidays going into storage, as well. For some, those memories were made around secondhand trees.
You can find shelves filled with packages of shiny, color-coordinated ornaments in every big-box store. It's easy and relatively affordable to create a polished, commercial-looking tree decked for the holidays.
So, why would anyone consider a tree adorned in secondhand items from a thrift store?
Because sometimes, the feeling evoked by a Christmas display is more important than how it looks.
That's what shoppers often discover at thrift stores, many of which stock up to a third of their shops with holiday decor during this season.
Kristy Lance, retail vice president for St. Louis' MERS Goodwill, says people come looking for deals, but also for vintage or unique items.
"In a lot of stores, I hear 'I haven't seen this ornament since I was a child at my grandmother's,'" Lance said. She's met with customers who decide to put up a tree in every room in their house because the ones at Goodwill are so affordable.
Anne Carr, store manager at Miriam Switching Post in Brentwood, Missouri, has heard similar feedback from shoppers.
"They want to create a unique tree that not everyone else has," she said.
Most thrift stores collect gently used Christmas decor year-round. The Switching Post closes the store one Sunday in mid-November, and the staff goes through hundreds of boxes of that year's treasures. The trove might include Baccarat or Waterford ornaments, to be sold at a third of their retail value. This year, they had hundreds of boxes of Hallmark Keepsake ornaments, all in the original boxes, including one of Joe Namath from a retired series.
Linda Estell has been a volunteer at the Switching Post for 18 years. She takes the lead in creating some of the themed, fully decorated trees for sale in the store. She doesn't purchase a single new item to create a tree displayed in the store; they're entirely put together with donated items.
She starts by taking stock of everything they have, and selecting items for the staff to work around. It can require thinking outside the box. One year, they created a hot pink and purple Barbie tree with dolls attached. They've hung tiny teacups from trees before, too, and created a snowman tree once. This year, Estell found a Christmas train set that caught her eye. She used wire to attach the individual train sections to the branches, along with pieces of the tracks and even stuffed bears in plaid outfits. She added old-fashioned lightbulbs and some children's books to complete the vintage toy-themed tree. A plaid tablecloth filled in for a tree skirt.
Besides being fun displays, having a tree pre-decorated can take a load off some shoppers' minds. A few years ago, a newly divorced man wandered into the store, worried about what he would do for a tree when his children visited for the holidays. Estell remembers him finding one of the decorated ones in the store and saying, "Perfect! I have a tree now."
For socially conscious shoppers and parents wanting to model a lesson for their children, thrift shopping offers the added plus of supporting a charitable cause. Goodwill's proceeds go to job-training programs, and the Switching Post donates all proceeds to the Miriam School, a local private school for kids with learning disabilities.
Besides, it's just fun to explore at these shops.
"There's an element of a treasure hunt to it, " Carr said. "We move a lot of merchandise every day. There's something new every day."
Well, technically, it isn't "new."
But new can be overrated. After all, the holiday spirit is as old as time.