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An immigrant family cuts down their first Christmas tree together

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

For a lot of families, going out into the woods to harvest a Christmas tree is a beloved holiday tradition. In the mountains of Colorado, the Rodas family carried on that to a new generation this year. Aspen Public Radio's Eleanor Bennett went along.

ELEANOR BENNETT, BYLINE: It's a snowy, gray morning, but the energy is high at a trailhead in the White River National Forest near Glenwood Springs. Bad Bunny plays on a loudspeaker. People pass around tamales and Mexican hot chocolate, called champorado. And Smokey Bear greets families as they arrive. At a table under a tent, a ranger gives a handsaw to the Rodas family - Vicky, Nelson and Jahir, who's 10, almost 11 years old. The ranger points them to a nearby trail.

NELSON RODAS: Let's go.

BENNETT: Vicky and Nelson are from Aguascalientes, Mexico, and have lived here since 2005.

VICKY RODAS: I grew up in a big family. We never had the option to buy a fake Christmas tree. So my mom - every year, she would come and say, like, this afternoon we're going to go to pick up our Christmas tree.

BENNETT: Her mom passed away from cancer about nine years ago, but she says she wants to keep her legacy alive for her youngest son, Jahir.

V RODAS: Right, Jahir - for grandma?

JAHIR RODAS: Yeah.

BENNETT: And wait. So this is your first time ever doing this?

JAHIR: Yes.

BENNETT: What do you think about it?

JAHIR: It's fun.

BENNETT: Are you excited to pick out the tree?

JAHIR: Yes.

BENNETT: After passing several not-quite-perfect candidates...

JAHIR: What about this one?

V RODAS: It's not too big. Let's go check it out. Wait for me.

BENNETT: The snow is up to our knees. And by the time we reach the tree, Jahir is already pulling out the saw.

N RODAS: You got to start from this side.

JAHIR: Ooh, OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF HANDSAW CUTTING WOOD)

BENNETT: Jahir and his dad get to work sawing. Vicky tells me she's happy to be taking Jahir to cut his first Christmas tree and to keep her mom's memory alive today.

V RODAS: The way that she liked to, you know, keep us, like, happy and enjoy the things that we have - we don't have that much. We're always, like, grateful to be, like, you know, a big family and have those moments with her.

(SOUNDBITE OF HANDSAW CUTTING WOOD)

BENNETT: After about 10 minutes, we hear a snapping sound, and Jahir looks up with a smile.

N RODAS: All right.

V RODAS: Got it? Look at that.

BENNETT: For his part, Jahir says he's already planning to come back next year.

JAHIR: Maybe next time, I might be 12 because this year I'm 11. Next year, I'm 12.

BENNETT: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Bennett in Aspen, Colo.

(SOUNDBITE OF VINCE GUARALDI'S "O TANNENBAUM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Bennett