Perhaps no other ritual signals the Yuletide season has begun more than selecting and decorating the Christmas tree.
Up to 35 million cut Christmas trees will be sold this year, with the most popular types including Scotch pine, Douglas fir, Noble fir, Fraser fir, Virginia pine, Balsam fir and white pine, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.
Michael Hughes of McDuffie Feed and Seed shakes out a freshly cut Fraser fir in preparation for Christmas tree shoppers.
Photo by Jerrie MacIntire
Around McDuffie County, tree sales got underway this past weekend, which is traditionally when the buying begins.
When choosing and caring for a Christmas tree, experts offer a number of tips, but the most important factor is making sure the tree has fresh water.
"People should get a good tree holder, and always use fresh water," said Wormy Newton of McDuffie Feed and Seed.
Lynn Broach agreed that fresh water is critical to keeping the tree healthy and green throughout the season. To help the trees absorb water, McDuffie Feed and Seed makes a fresh cut across the bottom of the tree after it's purchased.
"We'll trim up the trunk before they leave," said Ms. Broach who was helping prepare a fresh load of North Carolina Fraser firs for sale over the weekend.
Newly cut trees may need up to a gallon of water the first 24 hours and a quart a day following that, said Lonnie Fulmer who is selling Fraser firs in Carriage Lane across from Bi-Lo on Washington Road.
He makes a fresh cut across the bottom of each tree, and he also bores a small hole up the trunk to help absorption before he stands the trees in water.
"That's what keeps them smelling nice and staying green for so long," he said.
Chrissy Adkins has no trouble keeping the family's tree green throughout the season.
"You have to make sure you check the water every day. The humidity is different in every home," said Mrs. Adkins, who already has the family's tree in place and decorated.
The Adkins look for shape and fullness when choosing a tree, and the family traditionally chooses a Fraser fir "because they last longer."
After her husband brings the tree inside, she and the children join in the yearly ritual of decorating the tree as a family.