Tips for caring for a fresh Christmas tree in your home

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Fir trees were probably first used in Northern Europe about one thousand years ago; but get this; many homes hung their trees upside down from the ceiling using chains. Northern Europeans would also bring Hawthorne and cherry plants into their homes to try to force them into flower for Christmas. Those norther winters are long and dark!

The first documented use of a tree at Christmas is disputed. The cities of Tallinn in Estonia and Riga in Latvia both claim that they were the first. Tallinn in 1441 and Riga in 1510. Both trees were put up by the ‘Brotherhood of Blackheads’ which was an association of local unmarried merchants, ship owners, and foreigners in Livonia (what is now Estonia and Latvia).

In many European countries, early Christmas Trees were decorated with edible things, such as gingerbread, candy, chocolate, and gold covered apples. The traditions are still carried on today in many countries.

The first Christmas trees came to Britain sometime in the 1830s. They became very popular in 1841, when Queen Victoria’s German husband Prince Albert had a Christmas tree set up in Windsor Castle. In Victorian times, the tree would have been decorated with candles to represent stars. In many parts of Europe, candles are still used to decorate Christmas trees. Ralph Morris, an American telephonist, invented the first electric Christmas lights in 1895 because of the fire danger of having candles on trees.

When you get your fresh tree home:

  • store the tree in a cool place, out of the wind and rain, until it is ready to be brought indoors
  • when bringing the tree indoors, cut 1 to 2 cm (½ to ¾ of an inch) off the tree stump before placing it in water – the cut must be no more than four hours old; otherwise sap will seal the cut and prevent the water from rising, thus drying out the tree
  • the first water fill should be with warm water enabling the sap to flow readily. As the tree warms, water will be drawn upwards replenishing the moisture to the extremities.
  • Assign a family member to top up the water twice daily so the base of the tree never dries out. Your tree will drink several liters of water every day for the first week or two.

Thanks to Minter Gardening for the picture!