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While I have plenty of memories of putting up the tree for Christmas growing up, none of them include a real tree.Instead, they almost always include what our family lovingly refers to as Uncle Knick-Knack.

You see, my childhood consisted of certain family traditions, including scary movie night. Whenever my aunt came into town, my mom and aunt would let my sister and I stay up (with a massive bowl of popcorn) to watch old scary movies with them, such as 13 Ghosts and House on Haunted Hill (just about anything with Vincent Price).


They were just scary enough to forever ingrain a love for stories about ghosts, witches, vampires (the non-glittery kind), and creepy-crawlies. I would watch kid-friendly spooky films like The Witches and The Addams Family over and over again. I could easily recite scenes from them with the same gusto as my sister could sing every single commercial jingle ever known (from Huggies to Doublemint gum).

And if you aren’t already aware of the reference, The Addams Family is where “Uncle Knick-Knack ” came from. It went a little something like this (you may have to turn your volume all the way up to hear):

In case you aren’t able to watch the clip (get back to work!), Morticia Addams is going through a wardrobe and removing garment bags as she looks for something. Straight-faced, she reads off each tag as they move the bag:
“Uncle Knick-Knack’s winter wardrobe…
Uncle Knick-Knack’s summer wardrobe…
Uncle Knick-Knack…”

Now, you’re probably wondering just what in the heck this has to do with Christmas. Every year, our (fake) tree was a plain, prickly thing that we had to shape and assemble, string with lights, and decorate. We made a whole big thing about it as a post-Thanksgiving tradition, fighting over what kind of lights to use (I always wanted white, my sister Em always wanted multi-color) and who got to put what ornament on the tree. As the years passed, the cardboard box that the tree came in began falling apart. When duct tape could no longer hold the last of the cardboard remnants together, my mom decided to buy a large green storage bag to keep all of the disassembled branches in, which would keep everything together but was made out of a sturdy vinyl so that you couldn’t actually see what was in the bag. It looked like a giant lump in our upstairs closet, and I noticed there was a clear plastic square on the front of the bag that I assumed was use as a spot for a label.

As children, we have a tendency to draw bizarre parallels where none should exist. Combine that with my twisted sense of humor, and you see where this is going:  I took a sheet of paper, wrote “Uncle Knick-Knack” on one side, and slipped it into the bag’s label holder. It wasn’t until the following Christmas when we pulled the bag out of the closet that my prank was fully realized. After a few giggles, I assumed that the piece of paper would be thrown away and a proper label put in its place, but we never wound up doing anything about it. Uncle Knick-Knack was here to stay.

Even though that particular tree is no longer used in my parents house, we still refer to just that one tree as Uncle Knick-Knack; it’s a weird inside joke, but the name always reminds me each Christmas of putting up the tree, getting our hands scraped up trying to assemble it, and fighting over the light colors. When we got older, my mother bought a pre-lit tree that had a remote on it so we could choose between white or color (or both), and Uncle Knick-Knack was banished to the garage. He’s still in the family, though; my sister uses multiple trees in her house for the holidays, so she dragged dear ol’ UKK to her house – and there it remains.

These days, I have my very own fake tree, and I’ve dubbed him Uncle Knick-Knack II (the Second). He’s a little fancier than the original (pre-lit with white lights), but he’s found a good home just like the first did.

I hope you enjoyed this odd story. I’m actually really glad I took the time to finally write it down. Is your home full of weird Christmas stories like ours? I’d love to hear ’em.

UPDATE:  Mom decided to update the UDH Facebook page with a picture of Uncle Knick-Knack in its new home. Looking good for a 30-year-old tree, don’t you think?

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  1. Awesome story!! My dad and uncle used to always play pranks on my grandfather. One year (before I was even born) they put fire crackers in his burn barrel (apparently what they used in the old days to get rid of trash that could be burned) and helped him take all the wrapping paper out there after celebrating Christmas. Then watched him light it. It scared the crap out of him and then he laughed and scolded them. Not sure they ever topped that one but they continued on w/the pranks.

  2. @Vonda Back in the old days? Ha! My Dad still burns the used wrapping paper in a burn area in the back yard!

  3. Like I told you, this story warms my little heart. We will most likely have to get a bag this year, and UKK is what I always think it looks like!! :)

  4. Loved the story and I could relate to the movies, etc mentioned, & go back even further. UKK has aged very well!