Artificial Christmas trees are steadily growing in popularity. The first fakes were created some 90 years ago by the Addis Brush Company but did not gain wide acceptance.
But since 2004, sales of the imitations in the United States have doubled from nine to 18 million trees. Real trees have held their own during the same period selling about 27 million each holiday season.
If you consider there are 36 million more Christmas revelers today than 15 years ago, the artificials are making headway.
Artificial trees are now more realistic looking than ever and can “live” for years. The branches are typically made of polyvinyl chloride; think PVC plumbing pipe. And while they cost more initially, amortized over a long-life expectancy they are a good investment.
Still, they aren’t the real deal. Folks who walk into a home with a beautifully decorated artificial tree will often know it’s not from Mother Nature’s cupboard. Too perfect.
There is also the question of which tree is more environmentally friendly. The pros and cons tend to balance each other out. Many believe cutting a live tree is ecologically harmful but artificial trees made of petroleum-derived plastic will sit in landfills for centuries. Real trees decay in about seven years.
Sound arguments prevail on both sides of the issue. There is no right or wrong when Christmas celebrations are in play. Nonetheless, real seems more fun; especially if you can make a family event out of scoring a “needle factory” for the holidays.
During the Roman era, the mid-winter festival Saturnalia saw houses decorated with wreaths, evergreens and other items now associated with modern-day Christmas celebrations.
The first actual Christmas trees date to medieval times in early modern-day Germany where the populace brought trees into their homes to help celebrate Christmas. Decorations consisted of colored paper, apples, wafers, tinsel and sweetmeats.
At the close of the Middle-Ages, the Catholic religious order of monks and nuns called the Cistercians wrote what many consider the oldest reference to the Christmas tree: “On Christmas eve, you will look for a large branch of green laurel, and you shall reap many red oranges, and place them in the branches that come of the laurel and in every orange you shall put a candle …”.
The first mention of the Christmas tree in the United States was in 1836 when an article was published describing a German maid decorating her mistress’s tree.
Since 1923, a national Christmas tree has been placed on the Ellipse near the White House. The towering evergreen is decorated with 2,500 lights and is lit by the President in early December.
Given the popularity of the tradition, it’s not surprising Christmas tree farms have sprung up in most rural areas of the country. Typically, these are small businesses that cater to families in search of the holiday icon. It often becomes a ritual to pack up the kids and spend a day in search of the perfect tree.
The farms usually offer both pre-cut and cut-your-own trees. However, the joy of visiting these farms is the time spent roaming the properties looking for a live tree that matches a family’s needs.
Here in Fauquier County there are four cut-your-own farms: Aboria in Marshall, Hank’s Christmas trees at the Hartland Farm in Markham, KK Christmas Trees in Marshall, and Stribling Trees at Oldacres Farm in Markham.
Jim Stribling is the tree farmer at his Oldacres Farm and knows from holiday trees; his parents farmed both the orchard and tree emporium before he accepted the baton as “tree maven” upon their retirement.
“This year we’ll be open the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas each weekend from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” said Stribling. “We have hundreds of Fraser pine and White pine trees that families can choose and cut. Customers can bring their saw, or we’ll provide them one.”
Stribling underscores he has a variety of trees from four feet to more than eight feet high. The taller trees are typically harder to find. His farm grows several thousand trees, with hundreds primed each year for gracing living rooms throughout the Piedmont.
The farm offers hot cider and other refreshments, which customers can enjoy while have their trees netted and tied to their vehicles. Payment can be made by cash, check or credit cards.
For a complete list of Christmas tree farms in Fauquier, Culpeper and Prince William counties, and throughout Northern Virginia visit http://www.pickyourownchristmastree.org/VAxmasnorthern.php