Treat Williams Shares Sweet Family Christmas Tree Tradition
It’s right out of a Hallmark movie.
Whether you know him from his breakout role in the movie musical, Hair, or you saw him on Broadway in Grease, or maybe you are more of a Chesapeake Shores fan, it’s undeniable that Treat Williams is a living legend in entertainment and has been a staple on stage, film, and television for decades. But when he’s not working, you’ll find him happy as can be at home in his 200-year-old farmhouse in Manchester, Vermont with his family. This is where Southern Living recently caught up with him via a phone call.
In this strange era of the coronavirus pandemic that has so many of us basically house bound, the veteran actor remains humble, positive, and full of gratitude for what he has rather than what he may be missing out on in this time. “When I’m out mowing the hay on my property and it’s a beautiful day, and I can smell the fresh cut hay on my property in the summertime. I’m not particularly religious but I’ll sometimes stop and sit on the tractor and go, ‘I really wish I can thank somebody for this because this is really a great life. When I’m not acting, it’s just the greatest place to be,” he shared. A lover of history, he’s also in awe that his home bore witness to so much of it. “When this house was built, Abraham Lincoln was 11 years old.” Williams shares the same admiration for his town as well, especially at Christmastime. “Every year we have a Christmas tractor parade where everybody does up their tractor like a Christmas tree and drives the tractors down Main St. Oh it’s wonderful,” Williams gushed, although admitting that while he’s attended, he’s never had the time to participate because he’s usually working. “I have a beautiful John Deere 750, which is 30 years old and I would do it in a heartbeat.”
One tradition he never misses is his family’s Christmas tree tradition that takes place just after son Gil’s birthday on December 12. “We go to a little, wonderful, vegetable market stand and they have actually, right next door on the attached property, a Christmas tree field where the trees are actually growing and then they re-plant every year. You get to go and choose your tree and then they come and cut it for you, and they tie it to the top of your car,” Williams said, adding that daughter Ellie has the honors of picking the perfect Tannenbaum.
“And then Gil and I, my son and I, we put it up. All the decorations come out into the living room, bottle of wine gets set down on the table and we always put on the exact same album. It’s Frank Sinatra’s Jolly Christmas. It’s got the best group of Christmas songs. It’s just wonderful. And it starts with “Jingle Bells” and as soon as that first, it’s kind of a jazzy version of “Jingle Bells” plays, I just go right into Christmas heaven.”
In addition to the tree decorating soundtrack, Williams also has a ritual he observes every Christmas when it comes to holiday viewing. “I have to watch Christmas movies. One of the things we’ll watch—nobody watches with me anymore—I’ll watch The Christmas Story. And I have to watch the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim… I’m very particular that that’s my Christmas Carol. And it’s religious that I watch A Christmas Carol.”
In addition to these classics, you might want to mark on your calendars to watch the brand-new movie Williams stars in on Hallmark this season, The Christmas House, premiering on Hallmark Channel, November 22. This ensemble cast in which Williams plays the patriarch opposite Sharon Lawrence, tells a truly inclusive and relatable story of revisiting and possibly having to say farewell to the family home. It was filmed during this pandemic, so things were different, but Williams was able to find the silver linings despite the circumstances. “I’m on a show at Hallmark called Chesapeake Shores. And when Covid came they called us all saying, look we can’t do the show this year. Which I completely understood, nor was I particularly excited about being in masses of people. They said, but we promise you we will find work for you guys to get you through the year. Which I thought was extraordinary. That’s a difficult promise to make.” And due to filming in Canada with a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival, Williams found it gave the cast a rare opportunity.
“Sharon and I became close over the phone. We ran lines every day. We were rehearsing on the phone…. We had basically what you don’t have the opportunity to have anymore and that’s a 2-week rehearsal period,” Williams explained, saying the whole cast grew very close through their calls and texts.