The History of Christmas Trees
Many people celebrate the holiday, but few know the history of why people have Christmas trees as part of the décor. Having trees as part of Christmas did not begin as an American custom. The practice of setting up a Christmas tree first began as early as the 1500s as a German custom but the idea wasn’t widely accepted in the beginning.
Many areas of Germany didn’t start celebrating the Christmas holidays with a tree until the later part of the 1800s. Overseas, by the first of the 1900s, two classes of people – the wealthy and royalty- started putting up Christmas trees and from there, the tradition was born.
When the first wave of people left their country and came and settled in the New World, many brought with them the tradition of putting up evergreens inside their home and decorating small trees outside the home with whatever treasures nature provided.
Here in America however, the Christmas tree was much slower to catch on. Some people thought the Christmas tree was a symbol associated with Christians, but Christians were not open to the idea of having a tree in the midst of their holiday celebration.
It was regarded with suspicion and religious people believed the tree to be a symbol of paganism even though that belief was incorrect. Because of that belief, many Christians refused to have anything to do with Christmas trees. But slowly, the custom caught on.
Christmas trees first began to be marketed in the United States in the mid 1800s and were also accepted into the White House by the then residing President. Christmas trees were set up in public displays, trimmed with decorations and people were awed by the beauty. Toward the latter part of the 1800s a well known retail store saw the need for artificial trees and began selling them to customers.
In some countries, Winter Solstice heralded the time to set up the Christmas tree-close to the arrival of Christmas day. The first week of January was slated as time to remove the tree and all its trimmings.
Today, the Christmas tree is customarily set up shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday but some families set it up earlier. Taking down the tree is generally still done the first week of January but some families wait until after New Years Day.
This is due to the old wives tale that what you’re doing on January 1, you’ll do all year long. Since taking down the tree is hard work, folks believed that by taking it down then, that meant they would work hard all year long.
Whether the tree is put up after Thanksgiving or taken down after New Year’s Day, this is one custom that is loved and practiced by many. A Christmas tree can add a bright sparkle to your holidays, a well decorated, celebrated finishing touch.
What Kind of Christmas Tree Should You Buy?
Each time the holiday season rolls around, people begin to think about picking out a Christmas tree that they’ll carry home and decorate with their collection of ornaments. Most people usually head out to find a tree right around the time Thanksgiving rolls around, but you don’t have to wait that long.
You can get a tree before Thanksgiving and still keep it fresh and looking healthy and green through Christmas. You don’t really want to put off buying a Christmas tree because all of the best ones go pretty fast. You can buy your tree from a lot and have a wide selection to choose from or you can shop at a Christmas tree farm.
At the lot, you can tell which trees are healthy and fresh by the amount of needles that fall from the tree when it’s handled. A few needles coming off is to be expected, but if you pick the tree up and it loses needles as fast as a hard rain can fall, it’s not a good tree.
You want the needles to be pliant and have a nice, fresh scent to them. If you choose to go pick up a tree at a Christmas tree farm, you can pick out your tree and even cut it down yourself. Often, the prices of a tree at a Christmas tree farm is less expensive than buying one from the lot – plus you can turn the event into a family outing.
Once you decide where you’re going to buy your tree, then you need to know the best kind of tree you should purchase. There are several top choice trees to choose from, but you want to make sure you get the one that suits your decorating needs.
In the Fir family, there’s the White Fir. If you want to get a tree before Thanksgiving, this is a good choice. The needles last longer and the tree has a good scent. Also in the Fir family is the Fraser Fir and decorating this tree is a breeze because the branches are not overly crowded.
That’s one thing you have to look for when picking up a tree. You don’t want one where the branches are crowded in too closely. It’ll be too hard to get your hands in among the branches to hang your ornaments and other decorations.
Another lovely scented tree in the Fir group is the Balsam Fir and it’s one that many people recognize due to the strong, fresh scent. There’s also the Grand Fir, but this is a tree better chosen for ornaments that are lighter. The Noble Fir is good for decorating and is quite sturdy.
In the Spruce tree family, the Colorado Blue Spruce is considered a good choice for heavy or light ornaments. The Norway Spruce, however, has easily dropped needles – so don’t purchase this one too far in advance.
The Eastern White Pine has easily bendable branches and with proper care, has a long life. The Scotch Pine has very sharp needles, but doesn’t shed easily, so if you don’t want to vacuum up needles, this one is a good pick.
Whichever Christmas tree you choose, when you get it home, be sure to cut off a small part of the base (about a quarter inch). Never let the water level of the tree get too low. This can cause your tree to dry out and lose needles.
Artificial Christmas Trees Versus Real Christmas Trees
The excitement of Christmas takes off on a whole new level when it’s time to set up the Christmas tree. But before you set it up, you have to pick whether or not you’re planning to have an artificial Christmas tree or a real one. There are pros and cons to either choice so just weigh which one would be best for you.
With artificial trees, you don’t have to worry about the needles drying out. The needles won’t shed on your carpet so you won’t constantly be vacuuming them up. You won’t have the hassle of any pets constantly nipping at the needles like with a live tree.
You don’t have to decide if it’s fresh enough so that you don’t have to trim some of it off the bottom in order for the tree to have a longer, fresher life. You don’t have to fret about fastening the stand screws tightly against the bark so the tree won’t tip. By using an artificial tree, you can just drop the base securely into the stand.
Purchasing an artificial tree means you won’t have to wonder if you brought any pests inside your home that can damage your houseplants. Plus, there’s not the allergy factor with artificial trees like there can be with real ones.
Unlike real Christmas trees, you can buy artificial ones during the year and you won’t have to wait until the last minute to bring it home. You can get a jump on getting your Christmas items in place so that when the holidays arrive, you’re not out in the frantic shopping pace. With the ease of availability, you can buy more than one for different rooms in your house. You can get one for your children to decorate.
On the flip side, real Christmas trees have a wonderful scent. They smell like Christmas. The limbs are fuller and you won’t have a plastic pole poking through the limbs. The tree won’t have a plastic appearance.
The branches are easier to decorate than the sometimes thicker branches of artificial trees. Since the branches are attached to the tree, you won’t have the frustration of trying to match color coded branches to little slots.
Real Christmas trees are easier to take down and get out of your home. When the season is over, you can bag your real Christmas tree and many cities have a recycling program where used Christmas trees are turned into mulch, thus helping the environment.
With artificial Christmas trees, you have to remove each branch by section and make sure they’re labeled. Then you have to store them in boxes or plastic containers so that the branch tips won’t break off. Once you get it packed away, everything has to be lugged into storage or the attic. There are positives and negatives to either choice. You just have to decide which is the best choice.