Thanksgiving is the beginning of the Christmas season for many of us. I know many families go pick out their Christmas Trees on Thanksgiving weekend. It’s a great time to do that and it really begins to get you into the holiday spirit.

The biggest decoration in size and in use is the Christmas tree. Christmas trees have been used for centuries for many different reasons. According to Alabama Cooperative Extension, Christmas trees are believed to symbolize immortality. The Germanic people used evergreen boughs in their homes during winter for protection of their home and to return life to the snow-covered forest. There have been many different civilizations throughout history that have used evergreens in their homes, decorated or not, to celebrate the holidays, according to the University of Illinois Extension. The ancient Romans used decorated trees during their winter festival to honor their god of agriculture. Trees were sold in Germany in the 1500’s to be put in homes, undecorated.

Christmas trees came to the United States in 1747, when people in Pennsylvania decorated wooded pyramids with evergreen branches and candles. By 1850, decorated Christmas trees were a widely-used tradition in America. The first retail tree market was in New York in 1851 and the first president of the United States to put up a Christmas tree in the White House was Franklin Pierce in 1856. The first national Christmas tree was put up in 1923 on the lawn of the White House by President Calvin Coolidge.

There are many different tree species you can choose from for your family’s enjoyment through the holiday season. The most common species used for Christmas trees in Nebraska include: balsam fir, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine and white pine. Before leaving to go pick out your tree, it might be a good idea to measure the area of the room where the tree will be placed to ensure you get a tree that fits in the room.

When choosing your tree, assess the tree to learn the condition it is in. Walk around the tree to look for holes in the branching. Slightly tug on the needles that are on the tree to ensure they are tightly attached to the tree. Also, give the tree a good shake, if green needles fall off, this is not a fresh tree, so you should choose another. Brown needles can fall from the tree and not indicate a problem with the tree.

When you take your tree home, put a fresh cut on the stump of the tree and place it immediately into the tree stand with plenty of water. Ensure that the stand maintains an adequate amount of water through the holiday season. A fresh tree can use one quart of water or more per day. If you allow the water to drop below the fresh cut, a seal will form. A new cut would then be necessary to keep the tree fresh. Use hot water the first time you water the tree after the new cut to dissolve any sap that would clog the water conducting tissues. The use of additives in the water will not help the tree stay fresh longer, just use fresh water and make sure the tree has enough.

A few fun Christmas tree facts from the Nebraska Christmas Tree Growers Association:

• When one tree is removed for a Christmas tree, two or three seedlings are planted in its place.

• It takes seven to 15 years for a mature tree to reach a height of 6 feet tall for Christmas trees.

• Christmas trees are grown and harvested in all 50 states, including at 15 harvest farms in Nebraska.

• There are approximately one million acres in production for growing Christmas trees.

If you have any further questions, please contact Nicole Stoner at 402-223-1384, email nstoner2@unl.edu, visit the Gage County Extension website at www.gage.unl.edu, or like her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NicoleStonerHorticulture and follow her on Twitter: @Nikki_Stoner.

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