Christmas Trees: Some Advice

Let’s talk about Christmas trees.

I think it’s time to bring some Christmas joy to May, now that it’s finally getting warm where I live (hello 80 degrees, where did you come from??).

One of my absolute favorite parts of Christmas is the Christmas tree.

Now, this post isn’t going to go into details like history or origins of the Christmas tree, you’ll have to google around for that. Instead, I’m going to discuss a very controversial topic: fake versus real.

Personally, I will always go with a real tree over a fake tree.

I’m going to start by discussing the benefits of fake trees, though, because I have less to say on this topic.

Basically, if you prefer fake trees, I completely support you.

I understand that real trees are simply not realistic for some people. Maybe someone in your household is allergic, maybe you don’t live in an area with easy access to conifer trees, maybe you simply don’t want to have to deal with watering and taking care of the needles. Even my family has used fake trees occasionally in the past, such as when we’ve had a Disney trip planned for Christmas and won’t be home for most of December to enjoy it anyway.

There are some really gorgeous, very convincing looking fake trees out there. Even if you bought your fake tree for $20 from Goodwill, the point of having a tree is not for it to be perfect, it’s to help put the household in the Christmas spirit, and I can definitely get behind that.

Whatever the reason you don’t like real trees, that is completely valid, as long as you don’t go around denouncing people like myself.

So, here’s why I’m so into real trees. It’s been a tradition in my family since before I can remember to go and cut down a Christmas tree from the same local farm every single year.

Even when I went off to college, I would find a time to come home in December to go out with my parents and my brother to this family-owned tree farm and pick out the fullest, tallest tree we could fit in the house. (And no matter how much my mom and dad insisted it would be a small tree this year, it always ended up being way taller and fuller than they intended. I take full responsibility/credit for that).

The only time my family has ever gotten a tree without me was 2016, when I was living in Paris.

Even then, I’d made a secret plan with my brother to get my parents to the tree farm the day I arrived home (I flew home earlier than I told them I was), so that I could give them a great surprise. Unfortunately, a huge snow storm was blowing in the day I intended to surprise them, so they went out and picked out the tree the day before I got home.

On the bright side, I still got to decorate it.

For me, the Christmas season doesn’t really start until there is a Christmas tree standing pride of place in the living room, covered in gorgeous colored or white lights, and smothered in an ungodly assortment of the most mismatched but sentimental ornaments imaginable.

That, for the record, is the only way I think there is to decorate a Christmas tree in your home. Certainly if you have a business or a tree on display, make it lovely and symmetrical and uncluttered.

But at home, the only way to go is meaningful.

My brother and I both have huge tubs full of Hallmark ornaments we received from aunts and uncles, as well as our parents every year. We both have our favorites. One of mine is a little bell (which is technically my mom’s but I’ve commandeered it), which has the sweetest chime I’ve ever heard in my life. It sounds just like the bell at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life (one of my favorite Christmas movies), when Clarence gets his wings (oops, spoilers).

I also love the wind up grand piano that plays Für Elise that my godmother got for me the year I played piano in her wedding.

My brother loves the two Star Wars character ornaments he has; we always make an effort to set them up on the tree like they’re having a lightsaber battle!

My parents also have their special ornaments, like the house shaped ornament they got when they moved into their home, or the two cats sitting on a swing with their tails entwined from an anniversary year of theirs.

Now that I’m older, nobody buys ornaments for me, but I buy them endlessly for myself. They’re the thing that I collect.

Every time we go to a new place or event, even sometimes when we visit familiar places, I like to pick up an ornament or two to remind me of the trip.

Anyway, I digress. I’ll have to do another post about ornaments sometime.

To get to the point of my blog, here are a few top tips if you’re bringing a real tree into your home.

First, be prepared to vacuum. Needles will fall from your tree, it’s inevitable. It’s ok to swear a little when you get one of those buggers jammed in your foot, but make sure there are no children around first. And make sure that you don’t just leave it there when you pull it out of your tender skin, throw it away or break out the vacuum!

When picking out your tree, check for dead needles. Don’t just glance around the outside of the tree for fullness and good branches, make sure you take a look closer inside. If there are lots of dead needles clustered around the trunk, or if most of the inside is brown, the tree is not healthy. It will die very quickly and the vacuuming tip will become a daily necessity.

If your local tree farm or supplier offers it, get a custom tree stand. Our local tree farm has a stand that you can purchase with their trees. If you have one, they drill a hole in the base of the tree, which fits onto a peg in the stand. Getting the tree level in the stand is almost effortless with this, saves a lot of time and grievance!

Get your tree wrapped before bringing it home. It is so much easier to get it through the door and into the stand if the branches aren’t whacking everybody in the face.

Once you have the tree upright and level in the stand, just the way you want it, water your tree immediately. Once you’ve watered it, you can cut off the netting and give it a little time for the limbs to drop. But remember to check the water regularly, especially on the first day. You will probably have to fill the tree stand two or three times on the first day.

Keep your tree as far away from any heat source as possible. Obviously necessary when it comes to a fireplace, but also remember to close heating vents that might be blowing hot air onto your tree. These dry your tree out more quickly, not only making your tree die, but also making it more flammable.

I think those are the most important things when it comes to bringing home a real tree. If anyone has any tips you think I missed, let me know in the comments!

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