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There’s nothing like a real Christmas tree

I worked at a Christmas tree lot for 9 years in my teens outside Washington DC while growing up. While I know there was hard work and cold weather, I have many fond memories of those 4 weeks each year.

I sold a tree to Jeane Kirkpatrick when she was the US Ambassador to the UN. Teddy Kennedy put the roof down on a big Lincoln convertible (the one with suicide doors) and we ran a tree across the trunk and wedged the base up between the front seats and tied it down. For a 17-year-old kid, the car was more impressive than meeting a US Senator.

Real trees ‘cost’ a bit more than artificial trees when you consider the real one will last for but one season and the artificial one might last for years. Still, when you consider all the places you might spend a bit or save a bit during the holidays, there’s nothing like a real tree.

Real trees smell good and have character. Having been wrapped for shipping, you often don’t get the final view of your tree until it’s stood upright in the warmth of your home for a day. At this point you may find a hole, a ‘bad side’ or imperfect symmetry. Like the trees in Whoville with their impossible shapes, or Charlie Brown’s tree, these are character elements – embrace them.

Apparently, in this year of the pandemic, many consumers are again embracing the real thing when it comes to Christmas trees. Maybe this is their return to a simpler time and fond memories of their youth, or maybe they want the smell of the real thing while working virtually from home.

All cut trees will dry out, but find the freshest one you can. Take the individual needles and bend them between two fingers. If they snap without bending much, the tree is dry. Needles that bend without breaking indicate a fresher tree. It will smell better and hold the needles longer.

Once home, cut 1.5-2” off the bottom, get it in the stand quickly, and add hot tap water within 30 minutes. This will soften the sap and allow the tree to “drink” via capillary action. Keep the bottom of the tree submerged in the stand till you are ready to take it down. Not only does this keep the tree fresher, and reduce needle drop in your home, it also reduces fire risk.

Christmas trees are highly flammable. Keep them away from the fireplace and candles and avoid HVAC vents if possible as the airflow through the tree will dry it out.

Then, sit back and enjoy your real tree.