There were quite a few years growing up I would spend a few days around Christmas with my grandparents. For a few years early on they lived out in the country and my grandfather would trek through the woods and cut down a Christmas tree. A couple pieces of wood nailed together for a stand and the tree would take its rightful place next to the fireplace. My grandmother popped corn and dug through the attic to get out the old ornaments and the slightly battered-looking angel to perch on top of the tree.
As they grew older, my grandfather could no longer go out and chop down a tree, so they began to use artificial ones. One Christmas they had a white tree with a revolving light sitting next to it. The light had a multicolored plastic plate attached to it. As the plate revolved, the tree would slowly change color. First green, then yellow, then red, and finally blue. I remember watching it, mesmerized, as I fell asleep on the couch.
Even before the Christians adopted it as the triangular shaped symbol of the trinity and Christ’s promise of eternal life, the evergreen was considered “the tree of life.” In Europe, a tree was brought inside during the harsh cold winter as a symbol that life can survive even the worst conditions. In some areas the tree was decorated with flowers and then set on fire as a symbolic gesture.
The Christmas tree market in the United States began in 1851 when a farmer in New York hauled two sleds full of evergreens into New York City and sold them all. Christmas tree farms became popular in the 1930’s during the depression. Unable to sell their trees throughout the year, nurserymen began to harvest them as Christmas trees. Cultivated trees were preferable to the ones that grew in the wild because they were more symmetrical and easier to get into the house.
There are approximately 36 million real Christmas trees sold throughout the country each year. About twenty three percent of the consumers will purchase their tree at a farm, while about sixty two percent will buy theirs from a lot. Scotch pine ranks first with about forty percent of the market, followed by Douglas fir. Other big sellers are noble fir, white pine, balsam fir and white spruce. If you decide to get a real tree this year, here are some of the best farms and lots in the St. Louis area:
Eckert’s Country Store and Farms. 3 locations. (618) 233-0513 Eckert’s Farms is the largest pick-your-own orchard operation in the United States. In November and December you can cut a tree from what is undoubtedly the largest selection of trees in the area. They have expanded from running simple fruit orchards to family entertainment centers with special children’s activities, annual events and festivals. The Belleville country store features a restaurant , bakery, and gift area.
Heritage Valley Tree Farm 1668 Four Mile Road, Washington, Mo. (636) 239-7479 Features a 150 year old log farmhouse. Choose and harvest Canaan Fir and White Pine. Christmas craft items, hot chocolate, hot cider, and cookies are available. They provide saws, shaking and netting services.
Christmas Traditions Tree Farm 1482 South Lohman Road, Wright City, Mo. (636) 745-7488 Christmas Traditions features Scotch Pine and White Pine at only $4.50 per foot. They have a good selection of pre-harvested trees such as Balsam Fir, Scotch Pine, White Pine, and others with prices based on size and variety of tree. Also available are balled and burlaped Scotch Pine and White Pine up to 6 feet tall. They feature family activities such as a free visit with Santa the first three weeks following Thanksgiving. There is also a large heated gift shop featuring decorations, ornaments, hand-made crafts, and specialty gift baskets. They have a large selection of Christmas wreaths and tree stands.
Ted Drewes Frozen Custard 6726 Chippewa, St. Louis. (314) 481-2652 The most popular place to buy frozen custard and ice cream in St. Louis becomes a Christmas tree lot in the winter. A large selection of trees, fair prices, and outstanding service makes this the most popular Christmas tree lot too.