The question of the month is: What type of Christmas tree is in your house?
In some homes it's near sacrilege to erect anything other than a real, freshly cut tree. Not only does the pine fragrance bring to mind keepsake memories of Christmases past, but it also preserves a centuries-long tradition that many folks refuse to let go of.
Alas, in our home any sentiment we might have gets overruled by being budget-conscious. To spend $50 to $100 every year on a tree that will be tossed aside in a few weeks brings more pain than pleasure.
So, our tree is artificial. But it looks real. I mean, it looks more real than our last artificial tree did. And the smell of a fire burning in the wood stove is almost as fragrant as the scent of pine.
But for those who must have a real tree, here are some tips from experts for keeping it safe and making it last:
Most cut trees will last four to six weeks with plenty of water. Some species last longer than others. Needles of the Eastern red cedar dry out quickly; the cedar lasts two to three weeks. But blue or white spruce trees last longer, and Balsam or or Fraser firs can last up to six weeks.
Buy a stand to fit the trunk of the tree, rather than carving the trunk to fit the stand. Keeping layers of the trunk intact allows the tree to take in more water.
Shortly before putting the tree in place, cut off the bottom end of the trunk (a ¼- to 1-inch section). A new cut refreshes the wood, allowing it to take in more water.
Provide at least a gallon of water for the tree to stand in, and refill daily. Additives such as sugar or aspirin aren't necessary, according to the experts.
Always use UL-
approved electrical cords and decorations. Smaller lights produce less heat. Don't use cords that are frayed or worn out, and don't keep lights on while asleep or away from home.
Keep the tree away from sources of heat and cold, as needles will fall off more easily. Using a humidifier is an option for those concerned about dry air or drafts.
And, of course, keep trees away from open flames of candles and fireplaces.
Here are a few fun facts based on a little research:
Decorating trees for Christmas dates back to the 1500s in Europe.
Edward Johnson, Thomas Edison's assistant, first thought of electric lights for Christmas trees in 1882.
Today 98 percent of Christmas trees are grown on farms, as a sustainable crop. Trees are normally cut above the lower branches, enabling a new tree to grow from the same root system.
This year approximately 50 million American homes will have an artificial tree, compared with 30 million homes with a real tree.
A friend told me recently about the "bah humbug" mind-set of her co-workers regarding Christmas. Somebody had put up a tree at her office, but nobody wanted to decorate it -- until she came up with an idea.
She told each person to bring three ornaments with them to work. On the appointed day as her colleagues began putting their ornaments on the tree, the spirit of old Mr. Scrooge vanished.
The mood was immediately brightened by this simple act.
Holiday traditions such as lighting and decorating the tree help us strengthen our connections with those we love. They can also remind us of the real meaning behind this season of peace, joy and goodwill.
Simple rituals like these are valuable in keeping us centered, when so many distractions and demands are pulling at us this time of year.
Why not say "no" to some of the holiday social events, and spend a few more evenings staying at home with the family, enjoying your own special holiday traditions?
Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.