‘Tis the season for picking the perfect Christmas tree

Published 6:43 pm Thursday, December 1, 2011

Several varieties of tree can be used for Christmas trees, including blue spruce, white pine and Fraser firs, which are the most common type.

The Christmas tree is one of the most quintessential decorations for the holidays.

Whether it’s dressed in classic white, red and green ornaments and lights or decked out in multi-color dressings, the tree is a holiday staple, and putting it up is how many people kick off the season.

The tradition of trees in winter started long before Christians adopted them as Christmas decorations, according to www.history.com.

There are several locations throughout the city selling freshly cut trees, including Solomons Builders on Wilroy Road, where the trees are being sold to raise money for Bible World Church.

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Plants that stayed green all year had special meaning for people all over the world, and in some countries it was believed evergreens kept away evil spirits, according to the website.

However, evergreens really took off in the northern hemisphere to celebrate Winter Solstice, which falls on Dec. 21 or Dec. 22, the shortest day and longest night of the year.

“Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god has become sick and weak,” the site reads. “They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again.”

While evergreens have been a part of winter for centuries, 16th-century Germans are credited with creating the tradition when Christians starting bringing decorated trees into their homes.

Nowadays, while some people opt to use artificial trees in their homes, many still love to have freshly cut evergreens for the holidays.

Mike Helvestine, the owner of Santa’s Forest & Nursery, located on Carolina Road, said he thinks freshly cut trees add to the Christmas spirit.

“An artificial tree can’t give you the same smell as a real tree can,” he said.

Additionally, Helvestine said, he thinks real trees are better for the environment.

“A lot of chemicals go into (artificial trees),” he said. “A real tree is recyclable; it can go back into the environment.”

Helvestine said people shouldn’t be worried about being allergic to fresh trees because there are so many varieties that there is one for everyone.

“There are a lot of varieties out there,” he said. “It’s unlikely you are allergic to every one of them.”

Fraser firs are the most common and popular Christmas trees, but other varieties that are sold as Christmas trees include Douglas fir, scotch pine, white pine, blue spruce, Norway spruce, concolor fir and Canaan fir.

In choosing the perfect Christmas tree, there are a lot of factors to consider, including height and width.

Helvestine said he thinks the most important thing to keep in mind is ensuring the winning tree is well-hydrated.

To check if the tree has gotten enough water, he said, pick it up and check how heavy it is.

“If it’s really, super heavy, it’s a well-hydrated tree,” Helvestine said. “A six or seven-foot tree that’s really hard to pick up — that’s what you want.”

He said hydrated trees are healthier and last longer, but they also are safer.

“If a tree retains moisture, it’s not going to catch fire (as easily as dry trees).”

After checking out the weight, buyers can test the needles to check how healthy the tree is.

Helvestine said people should run their hands along one of the branches to see how many needles come off of the tree.

“On most trees, you’ll get a few needles to come off, but if you get a handful of needles, that’s not a good tree,” he said.

Color is another good indication of a tree’s condition.

Helvestine said a tree with any yellowing or browning on its needles indicates the tree is drying out, and people should avoid them.

Once you get a tree home, it’s important to make sure the tree absorbs plenty of water to keep the needles from falling off constantly.

“Once you let a tree dry out and the sap gets hard, there’s the beginning of your problems because now, your tree can’t absorb any water,” he said.

To keep your tree fresh and hydrated, you can drill holes in the bottom of the trunk that sits in the water.

Helvestine said it helps the tree absorb water and lessens the needle drops.