While most buy a new Christmas tree every year, Gina and Joe Mistretta haven't had to buy one since Christmas 1983. They have successfully kept a Scotch pine they bought for less than $20 34 years ago alive.
When the Mistrettas bought the tree in 1983, it was a small little tree, much like the one Charlie Brown bought in A Charlie Brown Christmas. But the tree started growing and they decided not to throw it away. They kept it alive and have been using it ever since.
The couple isn't exactly sure how old the tree is, but they know it's older than their eldest child.
"We figure out how long we've been married by how old the tree is," Joe joked in an interview with the Mercury News last week.
Their decision to save the tree year after year is also helpful for the environment. Cal State Fullerton professor John Bock told the Mercury News that the tree has captured at least 1,088 kilograms (or 2,400 pounds) of carbon dioxide.
The Mistrettas had already been using the tree for more than two years when son Joseph was born in 1986. Two years later, they strapped the tree inside a moving van when they moved to Irvine, California. Their second son, Michael, was born in 1990.
"I just hate coming down the street (after Christmas) and seeing people put out their tree," Michael told the Mercury News.
Taking out the tree from the patio has become an annual holiday tradition. They start the day after Thanksgiving and make sure to relocate the praying mantises that call the tree home during the year.
The Mistrettas also use the tree to display family heirlooms. Some of the ornaments date back to the 1940s, while a clay gingerbread man Joseph made in Kindergarten is on one branch.
"Some people need a perfect tree," Gina told the Mercury News. "That's not us. We want something sentimental; colorful."
Joseph now lives in the Bay Area with his girlfriend, and they plan on reusing their Christmas tree next year, too. The original tree will also survive and could even outlive the Mistrettas. Scotch pines can live between 150 and 200 years.
Photo credit: YouTube / Inside Edition