48 years of the Christmas Tree tradition on the Nechako

A fox seen close to the tree that is put on the Nechako river every year as a tradition.A fox seen close to the tree that is put on the Nechako river every year as a tradition.
The Christmas Tree is still on the Nechako River as of April 1. (Photos submitted by Wayne Salewski)The Christmas Tree is still on the Nechako River as of April 1. (Photos submitted by Wayne Salewski)

You know the Christmas tree that is put up on the Nechako river every year? The tradition of putting a tree on the river has been going on for close to 50 years now.

If you don’t know what is being referred to here, you have definitely seen it while driving on the bridge towards Northside Road.

This tradition of putting the tree on the Nechako River started in the winter of 1972-73 by Doctor Piper, who had moved to Vanderhoof from England.

The Salewski family in Vanderhoof have been carrying this tradition on for the past twenty years now, and Wayne Salewski gave the Omineca Express some insight into the history of the tree.

After Doctor Piper moved away, the tradition was taken over by the next homeowners, the Goff’s, who were school teachers and they put the tree out year after year through the 1980s, until they transferred to Fort St. James.

In between that time and the 2000s when the Salewski’s moved into the home, another homeowner came through and continued the tradition for a while.

Infact as a part of the sale of the house, there was a book left with instructions for the next homeowner on how to keep the tradition going.

“It has always been a well watched tradition with concern, when it didn’t go up after the Christmas season… some times it was delayed due to the reality of safety, but to my knowledge it has never missed a year in the 48 years that it has been inserted into the ice,” Salewski said.

Another interesting fact is that the tree sinks into the river between March and April, with no set dates. Last year, the tree sank on April 1, which is definitely not the case this year.

Here are a few other dates on which the tree sank in the Nechako river, over the past decade. (Salewski provided the Omineca Express with this data):

  • 2009 — March 23
  • 2015 — March 13
  • 2018 — April 16

“It is not only an appreciated tradition by many residents that cross the bridge daily, but it also attracts a lot of attention from wildlife that criss-cross the river nightly,” Salewski added.

Aman Parhar
Editor, Vanderhoof Omineca Express


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