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
Christmas wasn’t always celebrated the way it is today. The Puritans of Massachusetts banned any observance of Christmas and if you were caught observing the holiday, a fine would be imposed. And centuries ago in Connecticut, there was even a law forbidding the celebration of Christmas and the baking of mincemeat pies!
Modern Christmas trees appeared in the middle 1500’s in Germany, where trees were sold at local markets and set up in homes without any ornaments. 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 early account tells of a Christmas tree set up by American soldiers at Fort Dearborn, Illinois, the site of Chicago, in 1804. Still other accounts of Christmas trees first appearing in our country point to the German settlers in eastern Pennsylvania in 1747.
Tips to find your tree
As you begin your journey to find the best Christmas tree, you 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 — and no doubt rarely used — formal living room.
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 Christmas tree.
When your family arrives at the Christmas tree farm or other 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 trees you are considering.
“If 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 also should shake the branches a little or even pick the tree up six inches or so and plop it back down. Doing so can help you get a good, strong tree that will survive.”
Types of trees
Different lots and farms carry a variety of trees ranging from Frasier firs to Norway Spruce to White pines. Choose based on looks when you are first picking out a Christmas tree.
Firs: The Balsam Fir has dark green, short, long-lasting needles which are rounded at the tip and are very fragrant. This the traditional tree that Americans have grown up with.
The Douglas Fir has blue to dark green needles that radiate in all direction from the branch. This is one of the top major Christmas tree species in the country, named after David Douglas, who studied the tree in the 1800s.
A Frasier Fir has dark green, flattened needles — dark green at the tip and silvery underneath. The tree is pyramid-shaped with strong branches turning upward.
Spruce: The Norway Spruce is another traditional Christmas tree, but loses its needles more quickly than others if placed in a hot room. Its needles are long and shiny, dark green and conical in shape.
The Blue Spruce’s needles are powdery-blue to dark green and are very stiff. The tree’s branches are also stiff and therefore can support many heavy ornaments and decorations. The White Spruce features green to blue-ish green, short, stiff needles.
Pines: The most common Christmas tree is the Scotch Pine. It has dark green, one-inch-long needles, with an excellent survival rate. The White Pine’s needles are soft, blue-green, two to five inches long, in bundles of five, giving the tree a very full appearance.
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.
Where to Go Tree Hunting
• Audubon Society H. Smith Richardson Tree Farm – Choose and cut Christmas trees; Sasco Creek Road, Westport; 203-623-0646
• Bob’s Tree Farm – Choose and cut Christmas trees; 66-68 Turkey Plain Road, Rt. 53, Bethel; 203-241-3450
• Everett’s Corner Tree Farm – Choose and cut Christmas Trees; 136 Sherwood Road, Easton; 203-268-2508
• Fairview Tree Farm – Choose and cut Christmas trees; 486 Walnut Tree Hill Road, Shelton; 203-944-9090
• Four Corners Farm – Choose and cut Christmas trees; 55 Hattertown Road, Newtown; 203-426-5532
• The Gardener’s Center – 1396 Post Rd., Darien; 203-655-2549
• Gordon’s Tree Farm – Choose and cut Christmas trees; 488 Sport Hill Road, Easton; 203-261-TREE
• Jones Family Farms – Christmas trees; 606 Walnut Tree Hill Road, Shelton; 203-929-8425
• Kiwanis Park – cut Christmas trees; Old Norwalk Road, New Canaan; sponsored by the Exchange Club of New Canaan
• Maple Row Tree Farm – Choose and cut Christmas trees; 538 North Park Avenue, Easton; 203-261-9577
• Sam Bridge – 437 North St., Greenwich; 203-869-3418
• Silverman’s Farm – 451 Sport Hill Road, Easton; 203-261-3306
• Snow’s Farm – 550 Sport Hill Road, Easton; 203-261-2020
• Staib Tree Farm – Choose and cut Christmas trees, 49 Walnut Hill Road, Bethel; 203-748-1610
• Wells Hollow Farm – 656 Bridgeport Avenue, Shelton; 203-926-0524
• Young’s Nurseries – 211 Danbury Rd., Wilton; 203-762-5511