Texas Living

Master the Festive Quest with This Christmas Tree Guide

By Peter Simek 11.7.23

With all the decisions we make each holiday season, choosing the perfect Christmas tree should be a festive and, ideally, painless one. The tree is the centerpiece of our seasonal celebrations, the focal point where families gather around and create memories that will be cherished for years to come. All of which can make the challenge of finding the perfect tree for our homes a bit of a holiday stressor.

Should you head to one of Texas’ fabulous Christmas tree farms or opt for the trees you can find at the local hardware store? The struggle may begin with a family standoff — Dad wants a towering spruce, while little Timmy insists that the pint-sized pine is the epitome of perfection. Or perhaps it’s your 7-year-old fashioning herself as the tree critic, dismissing each option with a discerning, “This one’s too branchy.”

The trip to choose the family’s Christmas tree for the season doesn’t have to lead to stress or conflict. Here are some tried-and-true strategies to ensure that your tree-procuring endeavor is as smooth as a cup of cocoa on a cold winter’s night.

Fresh, Fresh, Fresh

Choosing the right tree begins with finding the best place to source your tree. While Christmas trees will start popping up in vacant lots and parking fields, your best bet is to find a local vendor that reliably sources trees from local Christmas tree farms. Most trees are cut three to four weeks before they arrive on the lot, so the sooner you source your tree, the fresher it will likely be. One strategy: Buy your tree early in the season when the cuts are freshest, and then store the tree in water in the garage until you are ready to bring it inside to decorate.

Size Matters:

Before you even set foot on a farm, measure the room’s ceiling height where your tree will stand. Remember to account for the tree stand’s height and the star or angel that will grace the tree’s peak. Armed with these measurements, you can avoid the comical (or tragic) realization that your tree is a few inches too tall. Also, take stock of the room width where your tree will live. A tree with too much girth in a small room may look like a Christmas bush.

The Right Tools:

Most tree farms or lots will give you a rough tree size on the tag, but bring your own tape measure to ensure the tree you are considering will fit in the space you have reserved for it. Most will provide saws if you choose to go the tree farm route. But bringing your own ensures you’re prepared and can make the trip feel more personal. A sharp, well-maintained saw can ease cutting, making it swift and clean. And don’t forget gloves to protect your hands from the tree’s sticky sap and potential splinters.

Fir, Pine, or Spruce?

Choosing the varietal of tree often depends on personal taste or family tradition. The most popular tree species tend to be firs, which can be found in these styles:

Balsam: Dark-green needles, rich fragrance, delicate branches suitable for lighter ornaments.
Douglas: Soft needles, tightly spaced strong branches, sweet fragrance.
Fraser: Dark blue-green needles, strong branches, tend to stay fresh longer.
Noble: Blue-green needles similar to Fraser, strong branches, and good needle retention.

Empower Your Child’s Natural Critic

If your child channels their inner fashionista when assessing trees, make it a game. Equip them with a notepad and pencil, letting them rate each tree out of 10. Discuss their scores and marvel at their astute observations. It’ll add a dash of fun and may lead you to consider trees in a light you’ve never seen before.

Family Vote

The allure of a Christmas tree is often in the eyes of the beholder. Consider setting up a voting system to prevent impassioned debates amid the pines. Allow each family member to nominate their top two trees and cast votes. The tree with the most votes wins. Make sure everyone understands and agrees to the process up front, and there will be no wet eyes on the car ride home. Familial democracy at its finest!

Transporting the Tree

Securing your tree for the journey home is paramount. Trees have an uncanny ability to test the limits of gravity and aerodynamics when not adequately fastened. If you’re using a car roof, place the tree trunk toward the front of the car, wrapping it in a tarp or netting. Secure the tree’s bottom, center, and top using strong rope or bungee cords. Position the tree diagonally for those with pickup trucks to prevent any overhang.

Acclimatize and Hydrate

Once you get your tree home, give it time to adjust. Trim a half-inch slice off the base to allow for better water absorption. Trees can drink up to a gallon of water in the first 24 hours, so ensure it’s well hydrated. A well-watered tree not only looks fresh but is also less of a fire hazard.

Decorating Diplomacy

Just as with choosing the tree, decorating can be a matter of many opinions. To avoid tinsel tiffs, categorize the ornaments. Perhaps one person is responsible for baubles, another for lights, and another for specialty ornaments. Remember, the tree’s charm lies in the memories and stories behind each decoration rather than perfection.

Bask in Its Glory

Once your tree is up, illuminated, and decorated, take a step back. Enjoy a family moment of appreciation, maybe with carols playing softly in the background and mugs of hot chocolate in hand. All the effort will indeed seem worth it as you bask in the tree’s glow, a symbol of unity, tradition, and the holiday spirit.

Make more wintertime memories with family while adorning your home with festive and wonderfully fragrant holiday candles.

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