Finding the Perfect Tree

Finding the Perfect Tree

In the Black Hills we are fortunate to be surrounded by Christmas trees all year round. Everywhere you look and drive throughout the Black Hills National Forest during the winter is like a scene from a movie as they are dusted with snow.

Many families in the area carry out the tradition of scouting for their own tree to display in their home – including Brian and Teri Criss. Since their oldest daughter Lydia was a toddler, they have been attending their church’s annual event, the Black Hills Community Church Tree Hunt and Chili Supper. Now all three children – Lydia (19), Grady (17) and Abigail (15) – look forward to the holiday tradition each and every year.

After the congregation meets on Sunday, families who are going on the hunt caravan out into the Hills for an afternoon of adventure. Groups split every which way in hopes of finding the perfect tree to bring home for the holidays.


{The Criss Family Circa 2002}

“As the children have grown, it is usually Grady and Daddy who take the responsibility of actually sawing down the tree after everyone has agreed on it,” explains Teri.

The family of five then picks up the tree together as a group effort to haul it back to the parked cars where the other families await with their holiday find for a group picture. Once everyone is loaded up, it’s back to the church for more fellowship over a warm meal – the Chili Supper.

“I think what we love most is the time together as a family and a church family,” said Teri. “It’s nice to get out into the Hills and enjoy the fresh air and the cameraderie, then a delicious, warm meal after a chilly afternoon in the snow together.”

As the day comes to an end, the tree sits in the garage until the decorations begin – another family favorite. Setting the tree in the living room, the family hangs ornaments and garland from the needles – all the way to the very top.


{The Criss Family Today}

“Our holiday tradition is something everyone looks forward to year after year,” said Teri. “As a mom, it is a sheer blessing to see your family enjoying one another and others around them.”

Families must have a Christmas Tree Permit for every tree they cut down issued by the Forest Service for $10. More information can be found at