Christmas is a season full of traditions. One tradition that I have carried from childhood is that every year, my family gets a real Christmas tree.
For me, the smell of Christmas is the rich scent of an evergreen tree. The look has lights and ornaments on natural branches. And many of my fondest holiday memories unfolded while sitting next to our Christmas tree.
A longstanding family tradition
As a child, my family would pile into our car and drive to a small, local tree farm in South Carolina. My sisters and I would run up and down the rows of pine and cedar trees, looking for the perfect one to bring home. As we got older and more opinionated, we would argue the merits of our favorite tree.
Eventually, we would agree on one special tree to bring home. We would run or dance in circles around it, singing “O Christmas Tree.” It was an elaborate family ritual that unfolded over the years of repeated tradition. The tradition was so firmly established, we even did it as teenagers!
The fun of getting a real Christmas tree
The process of where to get a real tree has looked different in other phases of my life. As a young adult, I bought a tiny desk-top tree at a supermarket. As a new mom, I strapped my newborn to my chest and walked through the fragrant tree lot outside a local hardware store.
We took our toddler to tree sale fundraisers in churchyards. For a few years, we went to an adorable downtown tree lot. We would sit by their wood stove and sip hot cocoa after choosing our tree. But no matter what, every year we got a real Christmas tree. Every year we sang to it. And every year, it smelled terrific.
When my sons were seven and three years-old, we took them to a tree farm for the first time. They loved it and insisted on going every year since. Now, every year they run up and down the rows of trees, their feet treading in the paths of my longstanding holiday tradition. They pick their favorites. And when we choose our tree, we run in a circle around it and sing “Oh, Christmas tree.”
At some point, I questioned whether buying a real Christmas tree every year was a sustainable choice for the environment. But the trees we purchase are grown to be harvested. For every tree harvested, one is planted in its place. And when I head to our local tree farm, I know I am supporting local farmers and workers. In an independent Life Cycle Assessment study it was calculated that real trees are better for the environment than artificial trees, which are usually manufactured from plastic and shipped from overseas. It’s especially good if you can mulch or recycle your tree at the end of the holiday season.
Holding onto tradition in an untraditional year
I am not sure what to expect this holiday season. I know will we not be able to participate in many of our usual traditions and holiday fun. The holiday will look very different as we try to keep everyone safe from COVID-19. But in this very unusual year, I am grateful one tradition we can still hold onto is getting a real Christmas tree. We can mask up and head to one of our favorite sites to choose a tree. We can run in circles and sing “Oh, Christmas tree.” We can still bring that fresh smell of evergreen into our home. And we can gather around the tree to make new memories, even in the midst of an unusual year.
Visit ItsChristmasKeepitReal.com to learn where to find a real Christmas tree near you. The interactive map and search filters can help you find a real Christmas tree no matter where you live and like to shop. But even if you don’t want to go out to shop, purchase a real Christmas tree online! Buying a real Christmas tree is a way to support local businesses, organizations, and their workers. Be sure to use the visual tree guide for a close-up look at the 20 most popular types of real Christmas trees.