In most homes during the holidays, the tree takes center stage, so choosing the “perfect one” is important. Do you cut your own? Buy one that is already pre-cut? And what type of tree should you buy: Balsam Fir, Blue Spruce, Scotch Pine?
It’s a process that can be as easy or as complicated as you make it. But first, ponder this — how did the tradition of having a tree all decorated and bedazzled with lights even start?
History of Christmas trees
The first documented use of a tree at Christmas and New Year celebrations is in the town square of Riga, the capital of Latvia, in the year 1510.
Modern Christmas trees appeared in the middle 1500s in Germany, where trees were sold at local markets and set up in homes without any ornaments.
The first Christmas trees came to Britain sometime in the 1830s. They became very popular in 1841, when Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s German husband) had a Christmas tree set up in Windsor Castle.
One report of the custom of having the Christmas tree here in the United States is that it was introduced during the War of Independence by Hessian troops. Yet another account tells of a Christmas tree set up by American soldiers at Fort Dearborn, Illinois, in 1804.
Still other accounts of Christmas trees first appearing in our country point to the German settlers in eastern Pennsylvania in 1747.
By the 1890s Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise around the U.S. It was noted that Europeans used small trees about 4 feet in height, while Americans liked their Christmas trees to reach from floor to ceiling.
The invention of electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end.
Tips to find your tree
As you begin your journey to find the best Christmas tree, you will need to consider first the space where the tree will be in your home. The best tree for that corner in your family room will not be the same as the tree you need for the spacious formal living room with the vaulted ceiling.
According to PickYourOwnChristmasTree.org, you should measure the space where you will have the tree. Get out your stand to measure its distance from the ground. Also measure the distance across the space to make sure you don’t get a tree that is too large for the area. At most Christmas tree farms you will be paying based on the height of the tree, so skipping this step can cost you more money. Once you have assessed the space, you are ready to head out to the Christmas tree farm to find the best tree.
When your family arrives at the tree farm — or another location where you will be choosing your tree — take your time. Look at several trees instead of jumping at the first one you see.
The key to picking out a Christmas tree is making sure it is healthy. Some trees may be cut weeks before being sold and you want to avoid that problem.
PickYourOwnChristmasTree.org suggests that you run your hands along the branches of the tree you are considering.
“If the needles come off, then you need to move on,” according to the website. “The tree is not going to be healthy enough to survive, unless you are shopping one or two days before Christmas.”
You should also shake the branches a little or even pick the tree up six inches or so off the ground and plop it back down. Doing so can help you get a good, strong tree that will survive.
And what is the next step after picking out that just-right tree? Decorating it, of course, not only with lights and ornaments but also with love.