Everything You Need to Know About Traditional Christmas Trees

Traditional Xmas tree in Forest

Everything You Need to Know About Traditional Christmas Trees

Christmas trees are an essential tradition for many families during the holiday season. A Christmas tree serves as the centrepiece and focal point for holiday decorating and celebrations in homes across the world.

The right tree can provide that perfect Christmas ambience, a scenic backdrop for opening gifts, and create lasting holiday memories.

When selecting a Christmas tree, there are a few key considerations including tree variety, size, premium features like full shape and soft needles, along with proper care and handling.

The species of tree, freshness, and dimensions need to complement your space and lifestyle. Evergreen trees have been associated with winter festivals for centuries, but modern Christmas trees originate from 16th-century Germany.

This guide will examine the history and symbolism of traditional Christmas trees, compare the characteristics of the most popular varieties like Fir, Pine and Spruce, provide tips for selection and care, and overview where you can find the best quality trees. 

What is the History and Symbolism of Christmas Trees?

- The tradition of decorating evergreen trees originated in 16th-century Germany, spreading to Britain and North America by the 19th century.

- Evergreen trees symbolise eternal life and persistence as they remain green through the harsh winter season when other trees lose their leaves and go dormant.

What are the Main Types of Traditional Christmas Trees and How Do They Compare?

When evaluating different varieties of real Christmas trees, key factors like needle retention, fragrance, and child/pet friendliness should be considered. While Fir trees tend to excel in needle retention and softness, Spruce trees are more affordable yet shed needles rapidly.

A detailed comparison of the three primary tree types of real Christmas trees:

Type Varieties Needle Type Needle Colour Shape Needle Retention Scent Child/Pet Friendly


Nordmann Fir

Flat, blunt

Dark green to blue-silver

Symmetrical, conical


Pleasant, mild


Fraser Fir

Flat, flexible

Green with a silvery underside


Very good

Pleasant, citrus


Noble Fir

Flat, blunt



Very good

Strong pine



Norway Spruce

Sharp, square


Triangular, pyramidal


Very strong


White Spruce

Sharp, square




Mild pine


Black Hills Spruce

Sharp, square


Dense, full


Medium pine



Eastern White Pine

Soft, rounded

Green to blue-green

Irregular, horizontal




Scotch Pine

Twisted, bunches

Bright green



Mild pine


White Pine

Very soft, long


Open, irregular


Very mild



In contrast to Spruce trees, Fir and Pine varieties exhibit greater needle retention and child/pet friendliness with their soft needles, though they can be more expensive. A detailed comparison shows the traits of each real Christmas tree type.

How do traditional Christmas trees and artificial Christmas trees compare?

When comparing real and artificial Christmas trees, there are pros and cons to each option to consider.

While real trees provide an authentic look and pine fragrance, artificial trees offer convenience and reusable longevity.

Factor Traditional Christmas Tree Artificial Christmas Tree
Cost Can be expensive, especially for larger sizes. The average cost is £50-£100. Higher upfront cost, from £100-£1000, but can be reused for many years.
Setup Requires annual purchasing, transport home, and watering stand. Easy to assemble and disassemble for storage. No watering is needed.
Appearance Natural, authentic look and feel. Variations in shape. Uniformly full branches, though realism is improving.
Fragrance Inviting, fresh pine aroma. No natural fragrance. Scented artificial trees are available.
Needle Shedding Drops needles, requires vacuuming. No needle loss to clean up.
Safety Cut trees become a fire hazard when dry. No fire risk, but look for fire-retardant materials.
Disposal Can recycle or use for mulch/compost when the season ends. Reused for many seasons. Eventually disposes of bulky waste.
Environment Farms grow new trees each year. Choose responsibly grown trees. Reusable for years meaning less waste. Some use recyclable materials.


While artificial trees excel in convenience and reusability, real trees outperform them when it comes to the authenticity of appearance and nostalgic pine fragrance. A side-by-side analysis shows real trees score higher for traditionalists while artificial trees have practical advantages.

How Do I Choose the Right Christmas Tree for My Home?

When selecting height and shape, carefully consider:

- Exact room dimensions - length, width, ceiling height
- All entryway measurements to ensure the tree can fit through doors and hallways
- Layout of furniture and walking paths to have adequate space for the tree stand 

Fir trees retain their needles longer but tend to be more expensive than other varieties. Spruce trees shed needles rapidly but are often the most affordable option. 

For homes with small children or pets, Fir and Pine trees are the safest choices as their needles are soft and flexible, unlike sharp Spruce needles that can easily puncture skin and paws.

How Should I Properly Care for a Christmas Tree?

Follow these crucial steps for keeping any cut Christmas tree fresh and minimising needle loss:

1. Check and replenish water in the stand daily, even multiple times per day for the first week. Fresh trees can absorb a surprising amount of water.

2. Place the tree away from heating sources like fireplaces, heating vents, and direct sun exposure from windows, which will accelerate moisture loss.

3. Use a sturdy, heavy stand designed for Christmas trees. Straighten the trunk and firmly screw it into the stand so it does not wobble. 

4. Routinely inspect light strings for frayed wires or loose bulb connections before decorating. Always unplug lights when leaving home.

5. Distribute ornaments and garlands evenly on inner and outer branches to prevent too much weight on branch tips.

Signs a Christmas tree urgently needs water:

- Dry, brittle needles that shed readily when touched or shaken
- Faded green colour turning yellowish 
- Sap dried around the trunk base 

What Should I Do with a Christmas Tree After the Holidays?

Safe options for proper disposal of Christmas trees:

- Within 1-2 weeks after Christmas, take down and remove trees before excessive drying occurs, which creates a serious fire hazard.

- Many municipal waste services will collect and recycle trees into wood chips or mulch. Some may require removing all decorations first.

- If planning to reuse an existing live root-balled tree, select a sunny location outdoors with proper drainage and space for growth. Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball before replanting.

Where Can I Find and Purchase a Fresh, High-Quality Christmas Tree?

Christmas trees can be purchased from:

- Choose-and-cut tree farms - Allows you to cut and select your own individual tree. Be prepared to transport it home.

- Pre-cut tree lots - Offer convenience and a variety of pre-harvested trees. Inspect needles and branches closely for freshness. 

- Local garden centres, hardware stores, and supermarkets - Limited seasonal inventory that sells out. Shop early for the best selection.

- Online mail order - Pre-cut trees shipped to your door. Choose expedited shipping to ensure the tree arrives fresh.

When evaluating pre-cut trees, carefully check for: 

- Dry, shrivelled needles that fall off easily when touched or shaken
- Sticky, crusty sap oozing from the bark, which indicates poor moisture retention
- Signs of mould, rot, pests, or other damage


Finding the perfect Christmas tree takes a bit of planning and preparation, but the payoff of a beautifully decorated centrepiece for your holiday celebrations makes it worthwhile. By knowing what to look for in terms of freshness, evaluating different tree varieties, and giving your tree the proper care, you can enjoy a lovely real tree that lasts throughout the season. May your holidays be bright with a fresh Christmas tree as your backdrop for memory-making!