Cutting down our own Christmas tree is a tradition Gabe surprised me with for our first Christmas together in 2011. This is now a family tradition that I can’t see us ever skipping. If you’re considering cutting down your own tree this year, or if you’re just wondering how this goes down, read on for all of the details.
We have always chopped down our tree on Black Friday. Some people go shopping for deals, but we go shopping for trees. We even try to be the first people there so that no one “steals” the best tree!
Of course, you don’t have to go the day after Thanksgiving, which is typically the day most tree farms open for the season, but we do recommend going as close to that day as you can. If you’re going to spend the money on a tree, you might as well enjoy it for as long as possible, right?
Here’s what you’ll need in order to be prepared for your tree cutting experience:
- Take some ratchet straps, bungee straps, twine, rope, or something similar with you so that you can secure the tree to your vehicle. Most tree farms will provide twine, but we recommend having your own too, just in case.
- Bring along a towel or small blanket so that you can lay on that when you’re chopping down the tree.
- Make sure you dress for the weather and prepare to be walking in mud, tall grass, and other elements that you would expect on an agricultural farm.
- Even if it’s not cold, you’ll want to wear work gloves while touching the tree. This will protect you from getting scratched and will also help keep some sap off of your hands.
- You do NOT typically need to take a saw with you. Every tree farm we’ve visited has provided saws, and most farms also provide sleds to pull your tree back to your car.
- Measure your ceiling height so you know how tall will be too tall. You don’t want a Griswold moment, right?
- Make sure you take cash with you as some farms do not accept credit cards.
It’s important and fun to take your time when picking the perfect tree. Make sure you look at your tree from every angle so you can see any bare spots.
Also pay careful attention to how straight the trunk is; if you pick one that’s too crooked, you’ll have to stare at that wacky thing all month.
By the way, most Christmas tree farms will shake and bag your tree for free. Some will also load it for you. And don’t worry about having a perfectly straight cut. They will also cut off the bottom for you to make it a straight cut.
Picking a Type
If you’re looking for a live Christmas tree, you’re going to want to know which variety you want in your home. Around Indiana, there are three main types of Christmas trees: fir, pine, and spruce.
We always pick a fir tree because we like the way they look and smell. Also, we’ve found firs to hold their needles longer. Firs also have sturdier branches that are better at holding up heavier ornaments. Due to differences in growing seasons and the popularity of firs, they are typically more expensive than the other varieties, so keep that in mind when choosing the tree that’s right for you.
Here are some other facts about these three varieties:
- Cannan, Fraser, and Douglas Firs are the most common varieties in Indiana.
- Firs have firm branches and short, soft needles.
- Firs typically have a sweet aroma.
- Scotch and White Pines are the most common in Indiana.
- Pines have firm branches and do not shed needles easily.
- The aroma from pines varies by type.
- Colorado Blue Spruce is the most common in Indiana.
- Spruce branches are firm and their needles are sharp.
- Spruce trees hold their needles well.
Call your Christmas tree farm (or a few in your area) to see what types of trees they will have available for the season before heading there.
Standing Up The Tree
We recommend having the tree farm pre-drill the tree for you and using a stand with a vertical tapered pin in the middle. We did not have this type of stand the first couple of years, and it was a real pain trying to screw in the pins on the tree stand correctly so that the tree would stand up straight.
Several Christmas tree farms that we’ve visited sell the Stand Strait brand of stand. The particular one we have doesn’t have any screws; it’s just a pot, tapered rod, and 4 metal legs. It works great!
Make sure you check the water level in the tree stand every day, especially when you first bring it home.
We’ve learned a few hacks through the years:
- When you’re bringing the tree in and out of the house, lay a tarp or blanket over the door’s threshold so that the needles that fall off when pulling the tree through the door don’t get stuck in the door jamb. Those take forever to get out.
- If you place your tree close to a heating vent, then close the vent so your tree doesn’t dry out quicker than it normally would.
- Make sure you put a floor-protecting mat under your stand so that the stand won’t scratch your floors (if not carpet) and so that water won’t accidentally spill out onto the floor if you overfill the stand.
- Put a tree skirt down so that every once in a while, you can take it outside and shake the needles into the yard. Sweeping under the tree is hard, so this helps.
- Do NOT wait more than a day or two after Christmas to get the tree out of the house. The longer you wait, the more brittle the needles will become, and the more mess there will be to clean up.
- When Christmas is over, check to see if there’s anywhere near you that recycles Christmas trees. We’re lucky to live in Indy, so we just take ours to one of the nine drop-off locations provided by the city. If there’s nothing near you, consider one of these five ideas for recycling your Christmas tree.
There are several reasons why cutting down a live tree is a great Christmas tradition:
- You get to spend time with your family in the great outdoors.
- You will feel like a boss after bringing your tree home that you cut down and hauled there all by yourself.
- Your home will smell amazing all season long.
- Live Christmas trees are an environmentally-friendly option.
- Cutting down a tree from a Christmas tree farm helps support a local small business.
If you’re looking for a tree farm in your area, the Indiana Christmas Tree Growers Association has a great list and map to help you. We’ve visited several different Christmas tree farms through the years. Some have hayrides and cocoa, some have Santa there for pictures, some have long lines, some have beautiful wreaths for sale, but they all have a special place in our family’s Christmas memories.
No matter where you live, we hope that you’ll make cutting down a Christmas tree a tradition in your family, too!