O’ Christmas trees

By Kristin Shaulis

Christmastime brings up thoughts of snow, lights and opening presents. Although as far as tradition goes, getting a Christmas tree is high on the list.

About 69 percent of American households had some sort of Christmas tree in 2002, according to the University’s extension Web site, which conducts the study every five years. Results for 2007 have not been released.

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“My family and I have had a Christmas tree since I can remember,” said Whitney Christman, freshman in FAA. “I couldn’t imagine waking up Christmas morning with the presents just sitting there without a tree.”

Getting the Christmas tree has the possibility of becoming a family event during the holidays.

“It’s a very traditional family experience,” said Julie Hardy, who owns the Hardy Reindeer Ranch along with her husband, Mark, in Rantoul. The ranch owns 10 acres of land specifically set aside for growing Christmas trees. Additionally, the ranch has the most popular types of Christmas trees brought in from out of state; trees that only grow in more mountainous climates. Families are able to choose and cut down their own tree.

“It’s a great opportunity for students who have their families down to visit,” she said. “It’s a nice experience to share with them.”

Most students and families have little experience cutting their own Christmas tree, but many tree farms supply all the resources needed.

“We’ve got everything someone would need right here,” said Hardy. “We’ve got saws, a full set of staff to help and a tree shaker. We have everything for a full-service experience.”

But the cost of a tree, especially in the current economic state, can also be a factor is the continuation of such a long-standing tradition.

“It can be cheaper to cut your own tree,” said Jeff Dawson, a professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University. “It depends on the market quality of the trees, but there would be no transportation costs.”

The cost

Different types of Christmas trees also vary in cost.

“The pines usually grow faster, making them more affordable,” said Hardy. “Most people don’t realize it can take eight to 14 years to fully grow a Christmas tree.”

When it comes to picking out the right tree, there are some specific things to look for.

“The needles should be green and flexible,” said Dawson. “You don’t want a lot of needles falling off when you rustle the tree.”

It’s also important to check to see if there is any green paint on the tree, which is often used to cover up unhealthy spots, Dawson said.

Buying and cutting a tree from a farm definitely has its benefits, other than just the experience itself, Hardy said.

“You’ll get a fresher tree; it’ll last longer, and it will have a better fragrance.”

Whether the tree is bought from a choose-and-cut farm or from a regular store, it’s important to take care of the tree once it arrives to the home.

“Make a one-inch cut, and after the tree is put in the stand, make sure to keep the water filled above that base,” said Dawson. “Trees continually take in water, and without it, it could cause drying and the tree could end up in worse shape.”

And regarding the real versus fake Christmas tree argument, Hardy puts it this way:

“There’s something about the fragrance and the tradition. I always tell people that artificial trees are made from the same stuff toilet bowl brushes are. It’s true. And who wants to decorate one of those?”