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Picking the Perfect Christmas Tree

Tips for how to start the holiday right by selecting and decorating the perfect tree.


O, TannenbaumFamily traditions are what the holidays are all about. Creating—and making it a point to follow—holiday rituals instills a sense of security and strength for the entire family. From picking your Christmas tree to decorating it with favorite ornaments, children will look back on such shared moments from their childhood for many years to come .

Picking the Perfect Tree

The experience of searching for, and ultimately finding, the perfect tree for your home and family can be the first part of the enjoyment of the holiday. Letting your kids experience the selection, location, and decoration of the tree will create cherished memories for them.

There are many different types of trees to choose from; the most common Christmas trees are firs, pines, and spruces. Each tree has distinct traits, and they all vary in fragrance, needle retention, and softness, and, of course, price. Many families enjoy making a big event of selecting their tree, and they plan a trip to a tree farm to choose and cut down their own. The main advantage to this method is that the tree will be as fresh as can be, and it will last well into the month. I prefer the less rigorous option of going to a local tree lot and picking out the best one.

However, if you are going to a tree farm, here are a few tips to remember:

1. Call before you go to make sure that they are open, and they have trees available. (Weather could be a factor in tree availability.)

2. Ask if they provide sawing equipment or if they will cut the tree for you, if you want.

3. Will they bag it and transport it to your car, or do you have to do that yourself?

4. Many tree farms have hay rides, Santa visits, restaurants, and gift shops to make your trip more enjoyable. Calling the farm to ascertain this and asking how long it will take to do everything will help you plan your time (and the kids’ attention spans) better.

5. Before you bag up the tree, shake it vigorously. It will have been outside for a long time, and critters, such as spiders and other bugs, like to make branches their home. You probably don’t want to introduce a fresh batch of uninvited guests into your car or house.

If you purchase a tree from a local parking lot, church, or school, you will want to check for similar things that are mentioned above. You will also need to ask yourself, how tall you want your tree to be. The rule of thumb is to start with the height of the room in which you’ll place it, and subtract two feet. That allows room for the ornament on top as well as extra height you will get from the stand. 

You can ask the attendant to trim a little more off the trunk, if necessary. You want the bottom trimmed a few inches anyway to open it up so it will absorb water when you bring it home and so it fits inside the stand. 

Also when selecting a tree, place your fingers inside the tree, maybe four to six inches back from the tips of the branches, and run your hand up and down the branches to confirm that the needles are not falling off. Vendors will always tell you that the trees are freshly cut, but, in a few days, the vendors will be gone, and you want the freshest tree, not the one that is turning brown before Christmas Day.

Time to Decorate

Each child in the family should also have his or her own unique ornament, featuring his or her name. Let your child choose the color, the size, and the shape, and let him or her choose where to hang it on the tree. It should be the child’s moment of pride in the tree and in how it’s decorated. Those can be the first ornaments placed on the tree.

Today, there are many different types of ornaments to enjoy or to demonstrate your pride. Whether it is your favorite sports team, some snowmen, a few animal figures, some religious objects, or the places you visited, use ornaments that mean something to you. Why did you decide to hang the ornament on the tree? Is it pretty, or is it a gift your son received on his first Christmas? Perhaps you have a collection of ornaments from your own childhood? Give them importance by telling a story each year.

Another way to involve your kids is to let them pick out one ornament each year that they might like to have for their trees when they’re older. Watch the progression of their selections as they get older, and then, when they leave the nest (hopefully), let them have the ornaments they chose so that they may continue the tradition as they get older.

Edited excerpt from Holidays for Kids by Charles Pascalar (Trafford Publishing).

Find the perfect tree at an NJ Christmas tree farm near you!

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