The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

Vocabulary Word of the Day
venturesome - Involving risk or danger; hazardous; daring; adventurous; bold; brave
The balsam grows up the rocky craigs where only a venturesome man may go.
"Papa says the balsam grows high on the rocky craigs up near heaven where only a venturesome man will go," said Ruthie.

Read The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree.


Discuss the setting of the story and the main characters.
Complete the following character and setting chart.
Main Characters
Pine Grove
Appalachian Mountains
through a year of seasons



  1. How was the season different when Ruthie and Papa first went in search of the perfect Christmas tree? Look for clues in the pictures. What kinds of things were going on during this season? (Beehives, etc.) Talk about how what you do differs from Ruthie's experience.
  2. When Mama and Ruthie reach the train station, how do you think they feel? How do you think they feel when they see all the men getting off the train?
  3. What did Ruthie's family do for a living? What was Papa's job? What kind of hardships did Ruthie's family endure because of the war? What was Mama and Ruthie's dilemma on Christmas Eve? How did Mama and Ruthie solve the problems they faced on Christmas Eve?
  4. How did Ruthie and Papa find the perfect tree? Where did they go to find it? How did they mark it so they would know which one to get when they came back? Why couldn't they just cut the tree down right then and there?
  5. When Mama and Ruthie went up the mountain to get their tree, Ruthie became frightened. How did Mama help her get over her fears?
  6. Where do you think Mama found the cloth to make Ruthie's dress and her doll's clothes? What do you think Mama used to make Ruthie's doll?
  7. If you were to describe Mama, what words would you use? How about Ruthie? Or Papa?
  8. Why do you think the people in church laughed when St. Nicholas gave all the deacons a lump of coal and a willow switch?
  9. What did Ruthie get from St. Nicholas? What surprise was waiting outside the church? Which gift do you think was the best one? Why?
  10. Can you tell who was telling the story by the end of the book? Is it someone different than you predicted at the beginning? How do you know who is telling the story?
  11. Besides being a gift to Ruthie, what part does her doll play in the story? (i.e., could it be a symbol for hope, love, tradition, faith, triumph, etc.) What does the family do with Ruthie's doll every Christmas from that time on?

Songs in the book "Silent Night," "I Wonder as I Wander," and "I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In."

Examples of things to discuss:



Links to Activities
Christmas Tree Background Information
Bonus Mentor Sentence Lesson: The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree
Christmas Read Alouds for Upper Elementary {Free Activities}
Discover Christmas Trees curriculum packet