Christmas tree origins can be traced back to northern Europe, with its use in Pagan traditions. German Protestants brought fir trees into their homes and decorated them with apples, tinsel and small treats. Later, small candles were added, symbols of the stars that lit the sky during the long, dark winter.
Commercial production of Christmas trees in the United States, for which the trees take approximately six to eight years to reach market size, began around 1850. But the popularity of the trees didn’t increase until Irish and German immigrants brought their traditions involving Christmas trees to this country later in the century. Prior to that time, portions of the U.S., particularly the Puritan community in the Northeast, viewed the trees as a “pagan mockery.” Additionally, England’s Queen Victoria, ever popular as a trend-setter, began displaying a Christmas tree around 1846, which influenced the upper-class of North American society. After World War I, the use of Christmas trees in U.S. society included all social levels.
There’s nothing like a freshly-cut Christmas tree to put you in the spirit of the season, especially the subtle aromas of evergreen wafting around the house. Never ventured into the realm of purchasing a genuine Christmas tree in lieu of an artificial one? The Ohio Christmas Tree Association’s tree farm locator can be used to find a farm in close proximity to home: http://ohiochristmastree.org/christmas-tree-farm-finder.
If you purchase a live Christmas tree, remember that hydration for your tree is paramount. According to Penn State Extension, select a tree stand with a reservoir that holds at least one gallon of clean water (do not add preservatives, aspirin or sugar).
A live tree uptakes more water in the first week, so watch your tree closely during this time. If possible, place your tree away from woodstoves, heating vents, or fireplaces to reduce the potential for dehydration. To increase water uptake, cut a half-inch off the trunk bottom once you bring your evergreen friend home.
For more care tips, visit: https://ento.psu.edu/extension/christmas-trees/cultural-information/caring-for-your-cut-christmas-tree.
Finally, it’s time for your yuletide houseguest to hit the road when the slightest touch to a branch results in needle fall. Recycle your Christmas tree at Price Farms Organics (4838 Warrensburg Road, Delaware), the designated Delaware County compost site. Remove all ornaments, tinsel, and elves prior to recycling.
Alternatively, a homeowner can create a Christmas tree brush pile for pollinators and small mammals. Pond owners can sink their tree using blocks or heavy rocks, thereby creating habitat for juvenile fish and invertebrates. Regardless of whether you decorate a real or artificial tree, know that this tradition, centuries-old, continues to warm the hearts and minds of many.
Kim Marshall is the communication specialist for the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to www.soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us.