Last year, I started a tradition with my niece and nephew that turned out to be much more fun than I had ever hoped for.
I noticed just how many Christmas Trees were on display in business windows and in other public places around town, and I thought that it would be pretty neat to take a picture of every tree I saw.
Thus this new holiday tradition of “Operation Christmas Tree Hunt” was born.
My nephew is Agent 101 (he is now 11), with my niece as Agent 202 (is now 13). I am Agent 303, boss of the mission. I recycled our Agent names from a game we played several years ago when my nephew devised these names for each of us. Sidebar: Agent 101 didn’t give my husband (his uncle) an Agent name; rather, he named him Dr. Coconut.
Anyway, I kept a running list of the trees I saw, then added to it every day as my husband and I would make our daily rounds and beach runs.
I then began to “tease” my two co-agents with cryptic messages after I set a date with my sister-in-law as to when our “Operation” could take place. I would leave messages like the one to the left in their mailbox (I know the images are a bit blurry-if you click on them, you will be able to read them better).
Agent 101 and Agent 202 accepted the mission, even though they had no idea what I was up to! All they knew is that they were going to spend the afternoon with their crazy aunt, and it had nothing to do with Six Flags or Artie Farty (yeah, my sister-in-law loves me for teaching the kiddos all sorts of inappropriate ditties like that).
On the mission date, each agent was dressed in black and all ready to go at the designated pick up time of 2:30 pm. I handed over their “Operation Christmas Tree Hunt” Classified Folders, which contained the mission instructions, a pen, a map of all of the trees I knew of, and a list in “route order,” so to speak, of the places we would be stopping.
As they read the instructions, they were laughing and loving it:
- Rapidly enter the buildings on the Map.
- Say NOTHING.
- Stand in front of the formal Christmas tree.
- Smile for a photo.
- Rapidly exit the building.
Agent 101 and Agent 202 had a lot of fun sneaking around and became more stealthy with each mission location. I was glad that none of the businesses gave us a hard time about going into their stores just for a picture with their tree. In fact, many of the people working at each spot laughed and loved the idea.
We ended up with photographs of 49 different Christmas Trees, most of them from my map, but we found others along our journey too. When they would find a new one, they would scream, “There’s one! Can we use that one too?” My answer was always “Of course!” Both agents were silent for each business visit and neither uttered a word inside any of the stops along the way. Their poses in each picture are a crack-up, too (I didn’t include any so as to protect their privacy), and as I am looking at the pictures now, I am literally laughing out loud.
Photo 22 is actually a picture of the agents with Dr. Coconut posing as a tree; they wanted to stop by and say hi to their uncle to include him in our mission.
When Operation Christmas Tree Hunt 2015 was completed, I took them out to dinner to celebrate our successful mission.
I made a photo book for each Agent with the pictures I took. Even though the books didn’t arrive until January, they didn’t care. Agent 101 and Agent 202 loved their books just the same.
I’m already keeping a list of the trees I spot for this year’s Operation Christmas Tree Hunt, but I’m going to make a few changes to the mission parameters. This year, I am going to add riddles to some of the stops, where Agent 101 and Agent 202 will have to figure out the next stop along the way instead of plotting every location on the map. I’m also going to make “Thank You” cards for the Agents to hand to each business. Agent 303 (me) will keep some singles in my pocket, and if a business has a charity collection bucket, I’ll have Agent 101 or Agent 202 give a dollar towards the cause. Maybe next season we can call up Agent 404 (my 5-year-old nephew) to the ranks of big kid Agent and have him join us for our adventures.
Agents 101 and 202 might not remember the present I gave them last year or the year before. However, I know Agent 101 and Agent 202 will always remember Operation Christmas Tree Hunt and the many laughs they shared with mission boss Agent 303 along the journey.
I know Agent 303 will.