Above: Make this festive activity a new holiday tradition. Illustration by Chris Philpot. 

EACH DECEMBER since their now-teenage girls were three and six years old, Jennifer Lindline and her husband, Bill Schneider, have loaded everyone into the truck and driven into the mountains near their Pecos home, where they hike into the woods to harvest a Christmas tree.

In those early years, they just picked a day, bundled up the girls, and loaded the car with tarps, saws, dog leashes, and snacks. Now Jennifer packs refreshments—cheese and crackers are a go-to snack, but hot chocolate and cookies are a must—while Bill searches the shed for their gear.

As they drive into the mountains, they tell stories of Christmases and trees past. Then, they hunt for a mostly symmetrical evergreen with branches thick enough to hold wooden ornaments gifted from family and ceramic ones the girls have made through the years.

“They always want to go big, and I always want smaller or quaint,” Jennifer says. “I always get outvoted, and it always requires some trimming.”

More than a decade of these trips has taught her that the best tree is always a little farther up and a little deeper into the woods. Tara, their younger daughter, helps Bill saw into the trunk, stepping back just before it topples. Frances, their older daughter, and Jennifer gather spare boughs for decorating the fireplace and front porch.

Bill drags the tree back to the truck, where they hoist it onto a tarp. Mud flies everywhere—a perfect moment for warm drinks and cookies.

As the girls have gotten older and their lives have filled with soccer practice, music rehearsals, homework, and friends, the time for this all-day adventure has become harder to find.

“I know they’re glad we do it,” Jennifer says. “We all look at the calendar and think, Maybe we should just buy one this year, and then go, No, we’ve got to go do it.”

Last year, with so much uncertainty in the world, the routine felt steadying. But this winter it’s tinged with a new and special sweetness: They’ll go tree hunting when Frances returns from her first semester at college, arriving just in time to keep the tradition alive.