Christmas Trees care tips

So, you shop for your perfect Christmas Tree, if you haven’t done so already. All you need now is just a little guidance to help you choose the right one.

As you shop, keep in mind that the right tree will feel pliable and soft, even on varieties with stiff needles, such as spruces.

  • Bang the bottom of the tree on a solid surface once or twice to see if the needles are ready to fall, it’s okay if some brown or yellow needles drop, but the tree shouldn’t shed any green ones.
  • Bring your tree stand to make sure the trunk will fit.
  • Freshly cut Christmas trees generally hold their needles the best, so cutting your own is the only way to guarantee its freshness.
  • For a list of farms in Maryland and Virginia where you can cut your own tree, check http://www.marylandchristmastrees.org or http://www.virginiachristmastrees.org.

Frazier firs have open branching, allowing easy decorating.

  • After you bring the tree home, use a bow saw to cut two inches off the bottom of the trunk, and place the tree in water in your garage or another location close to the house.
  • When you are ready to bring the tree indoors, make a fresh cut on the bottom of the trunk.
  • Introduce the tree to room temperature one day before decorating, allowing its branches to open completely.
  • Set it in a stand that’s big enough to provide stability and large enough to hold water for the tree’s daily needs.
  • Use a hand pruner or pruning saw to shape the tree for a balanced appearance and to make room underneath for gifts.
  • Make sure to cut away from your body and from other people while pruning.

There are several important safety tips for homeowners to remember.

  • Trees should be kept well away from fireplaces and at least three feet from any heating sources, and they should not be placed near exits.
  • When using decorative lights, use only those that carry a UL approved tag, and be sure to turn off the lights when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Local fire marshals also recommend strongly that trees be kept indoors for as brief a period as possible.
  • More information on holiday safety is available at http://www.kate.net/holidays/christmas/holidaysafety.html

The American National Christmas Tree Association, which represents growers of holiday trees, says that homeowners should not add products such as fertilizer, bleach or aspirin to water to make trees last longer.

“Research has shown that plain tap water is by far the best” according to their web site. “Some commercial additives and home concoctions can actually be detrimental to a tree’s moisture retention and increase needle loss”.

A Christmas tree can take, on average, six to 10 years to mature to a suitable size. Each year 73 million new trees are planted, according to the tree growers association. But if you’re worried about the impact of all those holiday trees on the environment, take heart: Christmas tree farming does bring some benefits. A renewable resource, the trees boost air quality by generating oxygen and reducing carbon dioxide and particulate pollution. Tree growth also helps to stabilize soil, protect water supplies and provide refuge for wildlife.

Once the holidays are over, homeowners face a new question: What to do with the tree? Local jurisdictions typically schedule pickup for discarded Christmas trees, which are chipped and added to Municipal leaf piles for compost. Most trees, in fact, end up providing a rich source of compost material. Many unsold trees also enter the chipper thus contributing to enriching the soil.

You can do your own post-Christmas composting in a few easy steps >

  • First, prune the limbs off the main trunk.
  • Then strip the smaller woody stems off the main branches, putting the needle-rich stems in your compost pile. The needles will add nitrogen, while the wood stems will add carbon.
  • The trunk and main branches can be placed curbside for pickup.

If you find a cone on your tree, remove it and allow to dry outside over winter. Peel back its “armor” in the spring to reveal the seeds hiding behind each woody scale. Plant the seeds in sunny spots. In 6 to 10 years, with proper soil, sun, moisture, pruning and temperatures, you may have a homegrown Christmas tree or two.

Your old Christmas tree can also be used to create a wildlife habitat >

  • Lay the tree in the back of your garden, slightly out of view.
  • Allow it collect leaf litter and plant debris.
  • Place a hollow log or a dead shrub behind it. Squirrels, rabbits, foxes, toads, turtles and birds depend on this type of protected area for nesting and shelter from predators.
  • As the tree decays, it will provide food for insects and worms that will in turn be eaten by birds.

Evergreen limbs can also be used as protection from wind or freeze damage for plants such as rosemary, loropetalum, or the roots of tender perennials and bulbs such as canna and dahlia. Lay the branches lightly, just one or two thick, as blankets over the desired area. Remove branches as growth resumes in the spring.

Some people are brave enough to bring home a live tree that can be planted in their yard. If this is what you have in mind, go to a garden center or tree seller that has experience with growing them. Live trees can be planted right after Christmas, but now is the time to dig and prepare the hole and put soil for planting the tree in an area where it won’t freeze. The trees adapt well in humus-laden, well-drained soil, with sunlight. Of course, until you plant the tree, cover the pre-dug hole with thick plywood, for safety. Keep the root ball moist and take the live tree out of the house within a week after the holiday to keep it from breaking dormancy.

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Christmas Traditions > Christmas Tree

One of the most popular traditions associated with the celebration of Christmas, the Christmas tree is normally an evergreen coniferous tree that is brought in the house or used in the open and is decorated with lights and colourful ornaments during the days preceding and immediately following Christmas.

The tradition is most widely observed in the more northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere (north of about 45 degrees N latitude), where Christmas falls at a time when daylight hours are very short, and temperatures often below freezing (0 degrees C) with snow covering the ground. This is a continuance of the ancient pagan idea that the evergreen tree represents a celebration of the renewal of life at a time of death, darkness and cold at the winter solstice. A common decoration is a “Christmas ball”, a reflecting sphere of thin metal-coated glass, working as a reducing wide-angle mirror.

Like many other Christmas traditions, the universally-popular Christmas tree is derived from a fusion of Christian ideas with older pagan traditions. The custom originated in Germany. According to one legend, Saint Boniface attempted to introduce the idea of trinity to the pagan tribes using the Cone-shaped evergreen trees because of their triangular appearance.

The tradition of hanging decorations (representing fruit or gifts) on the trees is very old, with some early reports coming from Germany’s upper Rhine region, but the tradition of attaching candles is attributed to Martin Luther. A related tradition was hanging evergreen branches throughout the home. With time, these evergreen branches gave way to garlands, vines and wreaths.

Many cultures since then have expanded upon the use of the Christmas tree for celebrations. Residents of Strasbourg in the 16th century decorated fir trees during the Christmas season. The tradition seems to have spread throughout Europe and was most likely brought to the United States by German settlers. In 1923, United States president Calvin Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony now held every year on the White House lawn.

UPDATE > The practice of tree worship has been found in many ancient cultures. Often, trees were brought indoors and decorated to ensure a good crop for the coming year. Trees have also been linked to divinity. Egyptians associated a palm tree with the god Baal-Tamar, while the Greeks and Romans believed that the mother of Adonis was changed into a fir tree. Adonis was one of her branches brought to life.

The modern Christmas tree was likely born in the 8th century, when St. Boniface was converting the Germanic tribes. The tribes worshipped oak trees, decorating them for the winter solstice. St. Boniface cut down an enormous oak tree, that was central to the worship of a particular tribe, but a fir tree grew in its place. The evergreen was offered as a symbol of Christianity, which the newly converted Germans began decorating for Christmas.

Prince Albert, who was German, introduced the Christmas tree to England after his marriage to Queen Victoria in 1840. German immigrants to Pennsylvania brought Christmas trees to America.

A diamond occasion for town Christmas

Posted On September 20, 2007

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There will be extra reason to celebrate the festive season in Grange, UK, this year when the town’s giant illuminated Christmas tree reaches a major landmark.

The giant red cedarwood tree in Grange’s Ornamental Gardens has been lit with colourful festive illuminations every year since 1947. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the pride of Grange being lit by electricity.

Until two years ago the Grange tree held the record for being Britain’s biggest living Christmas tree. But Councillor Robin Webster, Chairman of Grange Christmas Tree Lights Committee, said it’s now lost that record to a tree in Kew Gardens. “About two years ago the tree was featured in Gardeners’ World magazine, which told readers Grange has the tallest living Christmas tree in the UK. People at Kew Gardens must have read that article and now they have a bigger tree lit up with lights each Christmas.”

Nevertheless extra special celebrations will be taking place in Grange to mark the diamond anniversary, explained town Mayor Councillor Robert Leach. He told Monday’s town Council meeting: “The Christmas tree lights committee met to make the arrangements for the switch on on the first Saturday in December. This will be our diamond jubilee year. It’s 60 years since we started having the tree lit. We are hoping to make it a night to remember.”

Standing at 73ft 11ins, the giant red cedarwood, is believed to be only the second tree in the country lit by electricity. The cost of the Christmas tree lights festivities in Grange are met each year by Grange town Council, local businesses and individual donations.

According to Gardeners’ World the western red cedar, Thuia plicata, is unrecognisable as the conifer often seen grown as a hedge, but still has a long way to go as it can reach a whopping 115ft (35m) high in the wild.

Christmas trees in Iceland sold out

Posted On December 29, 2006

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Christmas trees in the capital area were sold out on December 23 this year, resulting in some families having to go without a tree over the holidays.

Steinunn Reynisdóttir, who works at garden store Gardheimar, told Fréttabladid that the shortage in Christmas trees was probably caused by the decision of supermarkets Bónus and Krónan not to sell trees this year.

Reynisdóttir said the Forestry Department in Mosfellsbaer, outside Reykjavík, had tried to solve the problem by cutting down trees in a small forest near the town on December 23 and Christmas Eve.

Christmas Ornament History

For Christians and others who celebrate Christmas’s secular traditions, decorating their home and Christmas trees with ornaments is one of the most enjoyable ways to capture the magic and excitement of the Christmas holidays.

The Christmas tree is often explained as a Christianization of pagan tradition and ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice, which included the use of evergreen boughs and pagan tree worship. The modern Christmas tree tradition is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century.

The invention of the blowpipe by some unknown artisan brought about the craft of glass blowing, eventually evolving into the fine art of Christmas glass ornaments we know today. Items originally produced were not Christmas ornaments but practical items used mostly in the home. Christoph Muller and Hans Greiner set up Germany’s first glassworks in 1597 in Lauscha, then in the Duchy of Sachsen-Coburg, now in the German state of Thuringia (Thuringen). Lauscha, located in a river valley, had several elements needed for glass making: timber (for firing the glass ovens) and sand. Soon other glashutten (glassworks) were established in the town, producing drinking glasses, flasks, glass bowls, glass beads (Glasperlen), and even glass eyes (1835).

In 1847 Hans Greiner, a descendent of the Hans Greiner who had established Lauscha’s first glassworks, began producing glass ornaments (Glasschmuck) in the shape of fruits and nuts. These were made in a unique hand-blown process combined with molds. The inside of the ornament was made to look silvery, at first with mercury or lead, then later using a special compound of silver nitrate and sugar water. Greiner’s sons and grandsons, Ernst (b. 1847), Otto (b. 1877), Willi (b. 1903), and Kurt (b. 1932), carried on the Christmas ornament tradition. They were also responsible for another product: glass marbles.

Glass ornaments had become popular in 1846 when an illustration of Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree was printed in a London paper. The Royal tree was decorated with glass ornaments from Prince Albert’s native land of Germany. Soon these unique glass Christmas ornaments were being exported to other parts of Europe.

Because of the Puritan influence, Christmas wasn’t widely celebrated in the United States until the 1800s. As a result, decorated trees did not become widely popular until people saw the ornaments brought to America by families emigrating from Germany and England in the 1840s. Some historians attribute the Hessians, German mercenaries fighting in the Revolutionary War, with introducing Americans to decorated trees. In the 1880s the American dime-store magnate F. W. Woolworth discovered Lauscha’s Glaskugeln during a visit to Germany. He made a fortune by importing the German glass ornaments to the U.S. By 1890, he was selling $25 million worth of ornaments at nickel and dime prices.

Germany faced virtually no competition until 1925. Then Japan began producing ornaments in large quantities for export to this country. Czechoslovakia also entered the field with many fancy ornaments. By 1935, more then 250 million Christmas tree ornaments were being imported to the United States.

The work of the German glass blowers and the distribution of the German ornaments remained almost unchanged from the middle of the 19th century through World War ll. When the Russian occupation of Germany began in 1953, many of the old world family molds that had been passed down for generations among all the families in Lauscha were destroyed. Families splintered when craftsmen fled their homeland to settle in Neustadt, a territory occupied by Americans, later establishing what is now the modern day Inge-glas workshop.

During the occupation, members of the Muller-Blech family stayed behind in Lauscha. Some of the old molds were found in garbage piles, other molds were bartered for. Since the border guards would have destroyed the molds if they had known the molds were going across the border, they were ingeniously smuggled. The molds were in two pieces, so, to ensure that the entire mold would get across the border, present day Inge-glas owner Klaus Muller-Blech’s grandmother would send them to him in a box of about a dozen or so, but only one half of each mold. She would put a note with the package, “Little Klaus, here are some molds for you to play with in the sand.” By sending the molds this way the border guards would think that the molds were of no importance. Later she would send the other half of the mold in a similar manner. For many years the old original recipe used to making the molds was lost. Recently the recipe to make the original molds used for making the old world Christmas glass ornaments was found, making Inge-glas the only company able to exactly reproduce the old molds.

The Muller-Blech family practiced the craft of ornament blowing in the same workshops in Lauscha Germany for thirteen generations. In the 1960’s Klaus Muller-Blech, a 14th generation descendant, and Birgit Eichhorn Jeremias-Sohn, descendant of the Eichhorn family, joined forces by marriage and combined their familys’ tradition and skills at the Inge-glas workshop. Today their collection includes more than 6000 antique blown glass ornaments molds dating from the 1850s. In addition, new ornaments are created each year to represent the traditions of today.

To find out if you own any original Inge-glas ornaments, look for the authentic star crown ornament holder. This star crown is the Inge-glas trademark. The Inge-glas ornaments are recognizable as one of the oldest generational German Christmas ornament makers and in the year 2000 Inge-glass established their own distribution site in the United States. Not until 1939 and the outbreak of World War II did an American company significantly enter the ornament business. Using a machine designed to make light bulbs, Corning engineers produced more than 2,000 ornament balls a minute. In 1973, Hallmark introduced six glass ball ornaments and 12 yarn figures as the first collection of Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments, a new tradition of Christmas decorating was started and a new collectible industry was born. When the first line was introduced, they were unique in design, year-dated and available only for a limited time, innovations in the world of ornaments. Since 1973, Hallmark has introduced more than 3,000 different Keepsakes Ornaments and more than 100 ornament series, groups of ornaments that share a specific theme. The finished Keepsake Ornaments reflect the way styles, materials, formats and technology have expanded since the first ones appeared in Hallmark stores in 1973. Once a collection of decorated glass balls and yarn figures, ornaments are now made in a wide array of wood, acrylic, bone china, porcelain, and handcrafted formats.

Many unusual glass Christmas ornament traditions and stories have evolved from the German families. The German tradition of hanging a Christmas glass ornament pickle on the Christmas tree is the oddest German Christmas ornament story, some say even a myth. The pickle ornament is always the last ornament to be hung on the Christmas tree, with the parents hiding the pickle glass ornament in the Christmas tree among all the other ornaments. When the children are allowed to view the Christmas tree they would begin gleefully searching for the German Christmas glass ornament pickle. The children knew that whoever found the pickle ornament first would receive an extra little gift and would be the one to begin the unwrapping of the Christmas gifts.

It would be interesting to hear from any readers that have experienced this tradition, so if you did, please do share your story with us, thank you and Merry Christmas!

A prehistoric Christmas treat > the Wollemi

It could be a prehistoric Christmas season for some Australians, with the Wollemi Pine thrust into the spotlight as the next big thing in Christmas trees.

“They are definitely ideal as a unique Christmas gift, and this is our first Christmas with the Wollemi Pine available so there has been a lot of interest in them” Anna Kalinowska from Wollemi Pine International said.

Living Planet in Riverstone is one of the few nurseries in the Hawkesbury region to stock the ancient plant since it first became available for sale to the public in April this year.”They make an ideal Christmas present” Maryanne Stewart from Living Planet said.

Growing up to 2-3 metres high, the Wollemi was discovered 10 years ago in Wollemi National Park. It has since become a favourite gift.

“I’ve got one at home that I’ve planted in a terracotta pot and put on my verandah” Ms Stewart said. “It’s best not to put them straight out in full sun. Put them on balconies or patios where they get the sun in the morning and the shade in the afternoon” she added.

When you purchase a Wollemi Pine you are presented with a certificate ensuring the authenticity of the plant, as well as an information booklet on how to care for your plant.

“A living plant is so much better than a bunch of flowers” Paul Maait from Living Planet said.

With less than 100 adult trees known to exist in the world, people can help bring the Wollemi back from extinction by caring for a plant.

“When you buy a Wollemi Pine a royalty goes back to fund conservation of the plant” Ms Kalinowska said, adding “They’re also easy to look after, they are very waterwise. You only have to water them once a week, and they are very versatile plants”.

The Wollemi makes a good indoor plant since it is evergreen and will not make a mess inside. Ms Stewart recommends buying them small and re-potting them as they grow.

“At a cost of $55 in a 140mm pot, even the smallest plants are quite leafy and substantial” Ms Stewart said. “You could use them as a decoration, and the bigger ones for Christmas trees”. For a larger plant in a 200 millimetre pot the cost is $95.

For a full list of participating stores, visit the Wollemipine website at > http://www.wollemipine.com

A Christmas joke

Posted On December 17, 2006

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Two blondes who went deep into the frozen woods searching for a Christmas tree.

After hours of singing in subzero temperatures and a few close calls with hungry wolves, one blonde finally turned to the other and said:

“I’ve had it. I’m chopping down the next tree I see. I don’t care whether it’s decorated or not!”

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