Real or artificial, how will you celebrate the Christmas tree tradition this holiday season?
The choice is often a personal one and both options have their pluses and minuses.
On one side, an artificial tree can be reused season after season, creates no mess and requires no upkeep or care, but it usually costs much more and requires a large amount of storage space to hide it for the rest of the year.
On the other hand, a real tree offers the look, feel and smell of a real tree, usually for a cheaper price, as well as the satisfaction of having a real symbol of Christmas in your living room. Of course, you’ll have to spend some time to find, cut down and transport your real tree, and you’ll also have to take good care of it and find a way to dispose of it later — but at least it won’t take up any space in your house once the holiday season is over.
“For some people it’s a very strong tradition to have a real tree, and you can’t get an artificial tree with a scent,” said Brian Horton, owner of Horton Tree Farms in Stouffville.
If you do decide to go for a real tree, Horton offers a few tips on finding and taking care of your real Christmas tree.
The first thing for eco-conscious revellers to know about real trees is that you’re not harming the environment by deciding on a real tree. The majority of tree farms are established on the cheapest, most marginal land not suitable for growing other crops, and every cut tree is always replaced with a fresh sapling that eventually grows into another Christmas-ready tree.
“It is a renewable crop and the trees stabilize the soil to prevent erosion. They’re slowly helping to reclaim the land,” he said.
But before you head out to a tree farm to pick up your real tree, make sure to take a few measurements.
“Trees always seem to look smaller in the field than they do in your house, so measure your space and take along a tape measure,” Horton said.
Look for a good, consistent colour throughout the tree and give the needles a tug to see if the tree is healthy.
“You can pull on the green needles and they should not come off, and if you bend the needles, they shouldn’t break,” he said.
Don’t worry too much if the tree has a few brown needles — shedding needles is a natural thing.
Before placing your tree in its stand, be sure to make a fresh cut to help it absorb water. Feel free to score the bark just above the cut to help with absorption. Make sure to keep your tree watered.
“The key is to never let it run out of water. I would not buy a stand that holds any less than two litres of water,” Horton said.
If possible, keep your tree out of direct sunlight and away from any heat sources to avoid having the tree dry out.
Once the season is over, look for tree-recycling programs in your area to dispose of your tree responsibly, or chop it into firewood for the winter.