The ultimate centerpiece of your holiday decoration, the Christmas tree is perhaps one of the most quintessential items of the festive season. It’s the place where you gather with your loved ones to open gifts and make memories.
Whether it’s a family tradition or a task just for you, selecting and decorating one can be quite a feat. You need to consider things like the location where you’d like to set it up, the size and height of your room, the base or stand you might need, as well as elements like the baubles, ornaments and tree toppers, the garland and lights and whether your decor will be based on a specific theme.
Christmas tree tradition
It’s hard to imagine Christmas without the traditional tree, but things have not always been this way. The Germans started using the tree as part of the celebration around 400 years ago. Decorated with roses made from coloured papers, as well as apples and tinsel, initially trees were mainly found in homes owned by the upper classes. Eventually, they gained popularity and in the 18th century, candles began to be used as a form of illumination until the advent of electricity. The first artificial alternatives were small in size, made from goose feathers dipped in green dye, usually displayed on table tops. Modern versions that looked closer to what we currently have started to appear during the 1940s and 1950s, whereas in the US, the Addis Brush Company, a toilet bowl brush manufacturer, created the first prototype of the artificial tree back in the 1930s Nowadays, it has become a universal symbol of Christmas, found in virtually every corner of the world during the month of December.
The artificial versus real debate
Malta’s lack of forests means that come Christmas, our main option is to decorate our homes with an artificial tree. Having said that, some stores are now importing a limited amount of the fresh variety, while for those who are true lovers of the real thing, they may opt to buy one online.
Beyond our shores, however, where the choice is much wider, the real versus artificial tree debate is common year after year. Contrary to popular belief, many countries are putting the environment first by introducing recycling programmes known as treecycling, whereby trees are worked into mulch and can eventually be reused in landscaping and gardening or may even be utilised for playground material, paths and walkways. In addition, new trees are planted to replace those cut down. In contrast, if you think that the artificial variety is a more eco-friendly alternative, think again. These trees are typically made from metal and PVC material, a petroleum-derived plastic which is non-biodegradable and non-recyclable.
No matter what your take is on the debate, here is a quick rundown of the pros and cons of each alternative.
Pros: easy to set up and take down, they tend to have a long lifespan, while they are not a fire hazard. In addition, they do not shed needles which means that there’s no need to clean up every so often, while you do not have to worry about getting rid of it after the festivities.
Cons: it lacks that lovely pine scent and depending on the quality, some make look quite faux. Size affects the price, so large trees can cost well into the €100s.
Pros: the pine smell is truly unforgettable and for some, it is synonymous with Christmas. This type is biodegradable which means that they are better for the environment.
Cons: their average lifespan is that of a few weeks. They shed needles and if not watered properly, they could end up being a potential fire hazard.
Types of Christmas trees
Gone are the days when artificial trees looked unnatural. Today’s models are made to look like different species of pines or firs. They can be found in an assortment of sizes and styles and may even have a range of accessories.
Pre-lit: pre-wired with lights, these could consist of white, multicoloured, colour changing or microdot lights, ideal for saving up on time and money.
Flocked: perhaps one of the most iconic symbols of the festive season, this type of tree is sprayed or dusted with a white coating to look like fresh snow. On occasions, glitter is added too, for some extra sparkle.
Pre-decorated: here typical decorations include pine cones and bows.
Upside down: if you’re after wowing your guests during Christmas lunch or if you have a rowdy toddler that likes to climb on anything and everything, an upside down tree can make all the difference.
Coloured: experiment a little by purchasing a purple, red, pink or even a black tree.
Miniature: lacking space? Bring home the holiday cheer with a mini Christmas tree that will look perfect on the top of your coffee or dining table, desk or dresser.
Although not easily available in the local market, there are a number of authentic trees that you can opt for. Among the most common ones are the Douglas firs, silvertips, white firs and noble firs. A local Christmas tree supplier should be able to help you locate the ideal tree for your space.
Remember that other than deciding on the type of tree, you also need to consider the tree shape and height. Trees generally sport three widths, full, slim and pencil, whereas heights vary and they range from tabletop up to 16 feet. Before selecting one, make sure you take appropriate measurements of the area you’d like to place it and leave sufficient space around it for things like decorations and presents.
Christmas shops on the island
Many of the local stores operate purely on a seasonal basis. A month or so before the Christmas festivities are in full swing, these would already be showcasing a multitude of decorations and products. Stocked with trees of all sizes, shapes and types, there is much more on offer. From plastic and acrylic baubles, glass decorations and ceramic ornaments to LED lights and outdoor silhouette lights, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Other products available to purchase include tree skirts, personalised stockings, Santa Claus figurines and an assortment of candles, tinsel, dried flowers, mistletoes, as well as garland and wreaths to match your style. And for those who would like to add a religious touch to their festive home decor, Christmas shops have a wide choice of nativity sets.
Need some inspiration? Swap traditional ornaments and garlands with candy canes or even edible items like gingerbread men, chocolates and other sweets wrapped in colourful wrapping. You may also want to ask the salesperson for some tips, while if you’re a business that needs help to decorate your premises, some Christmas shops offer this service too.