Everything you need to know about Christmas tree

Now that the Yuletide spirit is already in the air, it’s time to hunt for the perfect Christmas tree.

In fact, the holiday fun and excitement begins with decorating a pine/fir tree — a tradition that most people look forward to every year. According to the Encyclop198dia Britannica, the use of evergreen trees — wreaths, and garlands to symbolise eternal life — was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans. It was also prevalent in the Scandinavian customs that involved decorating the house and barn with evergreens during New Year to scare away the devil and setting up a tree for the birds during Christmas time.

Possible predecessors
While the modern Christmas tree originated during the Renaissance of early modern Germany, there are other theories too. It all started about 1,000 years ago in Northern Europe. Trees were hung upside down from the ceiling — from chandeliers/lighting hooks — using chains. The evergreen fir has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (both pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Pagans used its branches to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, in order to welcome spring. The Romans decorated their temples with fir trees at the festival of Saturnalia. Christians use it as a sign of everlasting life with God.

Setting up and taking down
Both setting up and taking down a Christmas tree are associated with specific dates. Traditionally, Christmas trees were not brought in and decorated until Christmas Eve and then removed on the day after Twelfth Night (January 5). To have a tree up before or after these dates was considered bad luck. Some families in the US and Canada would put up a Christmas tree a week prior to American Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday of November), and Christmas decorations show up even earlier in retail stores, often the day after Halloween (October 31). Some households do not put up the tree until the second week of December, and leave it until Epiphany (January 6). In Roman Catholic homes, the tree may be kept till Candlemas (February 2).

Grow your own Christmas tree
These days, people love to grow their own Christmas trees at home. And it’s not that difficult. If your home lacks garden space, you can purchase a small tree and let it grow on your balcony till Christmas. But if you plan well in advance, then it is possible that you can celebrate the festival with a homegrown one.

Types of trees
You can select Virginia pine, which is the most common Christmas tree or you can go for Afghan pine. Other types include deodar cedar, sand pine and Arizona cypress.

Your planting site should be away from any human interference. Avoid steep slopes, on which soil erosion is common and water often flows away before reaching the roots. Make the site clear of any type of weeds. You can purchase good quality seedlings from the local market or order some online. February to May is the best time for planting the tree.

Soil & watering
Christmas trees can grow in almost any type of soil, but loamy soil is ideal. Always keep the soil moist.

Seedlings can’t tolerate high temperature, so they should be planted in cool weather.

Feed your plant once or twice a year with all-purpose fertiliser. Compost can be added to increase nutrient levels. However, the plant doesn’t need much fertilising.

Last but not the least…
For those, who have planned last minute to put up a tree need not lose heart, as nurseries all over the city are offering Christmas trees for sale. A number of shops in Mumbai have been stocking trees, which they bring in from suburban nurseries. “Demand for the trees in the city is huge. Trees, two to three feet in height, are available for around `250. A taller tree, for instance a five-footer, is available for `500 and above. The coniferous plant can grow in the pot to a height of six feet, but after that it has to be planted in soil. A Christmas tree can grow as tall as 40 feet and can live more than 50 years,” said Sudip Shaw, spokesperson of a popular nursery.

Tips for Decorating the Christmas tree
There isn’t really a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to put up a Christmas tree at home. You can decorate it the way you like. Here are a few tips.

1) Ensure that your Christmas tree has green foliage no matter whether it is real or artificial. Make sure you trim and arrange the branches the way you like them. Cut those branches that hamper its symmetrical look.

2) Lush green trees are always in demand. However, if you cannot have one, an artificial one can fulfill your purpose. Make sure you water it regularly so that it looks fresh and green throughout the festive time.

3) You should choose the light very carefully. You should also check that the lights are in right condition and working properly. Check if the entire circuit is working properly before you start your decorations.

4) Once you are done with the lighting, you should choose the colour scheme and compile your own set. Add the large-sized decorations at the bottom and reduce the size as you go upwards. Hang baubles, stars and droplets at the ends of the branches and hang the treasured ones at the top.

5) Do not hang the ornaments only on the branch tips. Try placing them all around. But make sure you don’t go overboard with props.

6) You can give your Christmas tree a personal touch by crafting decorative items on your own. Place wrapped presents at the base of the tree. You can select your own theme. Plan in advance. You will find plenty of ornaments available in shops to go with your theme.