Canal Zone Christmas Trees
by Frances Coffey

When I was in the third grade, the teacher whispered into my ear that the truck carrying the Christmas trees had just passed the school.  Each Year the truck roughly threw out a tree in the direction of each residence. My father promptly loaded the tree on top of our car and immediately took it back to behind the commissary.  He then picked out a good tree and some branches. I was so excited, I got hit by a bicycle and had a trip to the hospital.  MY father put the tree up and stuck some branches in the bare spots (with a few swear words) and put on the lights first (more swear words.) Then came the ornaments.  The big ones went on top of the tree and the others were placed on the rest of the tree. Now was the time for the tinsel (after the lights went out for the hundredth time)  At that point in time if l light went out, they all went out and you had to check each bulb.(More swearing.)  It was my job to put the angel on top of the tree.  That angel had seen better days, but we loved it so much we could not replace it.  My son still has it in the original box, but it is pretty battered.  Outside the house, my husband put a star on top of his radio antenna on the roof.  One time he fell off the roof and we had a grand time chanting Dad fell off the roof stealing a popular expression for  certain periods in a  girl's life.  My son's personal tree was aluminum and it could not have lights on it.  He put it outside and had a color wheel to change colors on the tree.

There was a house in Margarita where every year the owners put out Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  My little daughter was entranced with that reindeer and had to be driven past it 20 times per day.

Every Christmas season, I do not think that the activities appear to change much.


One year the commissary turkeys all tasted like fish.  It seems they were fed on some sort of fish meal.

In l943, the Christmas trees did not arrive in time for Christmas.  Zonians made do with mango trees, palm trees, a few pine trees.  The Colon highway from the 4 corners to Colon planted pine type trees on either side of the new highway.  By the day before Christmas the trees had all disappeared.  We had a nice mango tree.  After Christmas, the commissary, after receiving the Christmas trees, was selling them for l0 cents each, but there was not any demand.  Even the bon fire did not burn as bright.


December 2004