Tis the Season: Christmas Tree Shopping the Nova Scotia Way

By Wendy Bradley Reynolds   Trail Canada

There is nothing quite like a Christmas tree to invoke the spirit of the holidays, and in Nova Scotia, where 2 million such trees are harvested every year, a real tree is a must. Whether it is the scent of balsam or the memories that each ornament, carefully unfolded, produces, what was once referred to as a “pesky little bush” by early European settlers is now a true holiday institution. And in Nova Scotia, the Christmas tree hunt does not have to take place in a shopping mall tree lot. For many families the search for the perfect tree starts early and is accompanied by relatives, neighbors, and friends…oh, and a festive nametag, of course.

The first step in your Christmas tree foraging should begin with the selection of a grower who operates a “choose and cut” lot. Yes Nova Scotia is a province with an abundance of pristine wilderness, but resist the urge to simply head to the nearest woods with a saw…you may be trespassing and stealing. Your tree will probably also be less than what it could be, since the knowledge and tradition of Christmas tree growers has been passed down generation to generation to produce a world renown, hand trimmed product.

One popular destination for spectacular Christmas trees is Lunenburg County. While Lunenburg may bring to mind ocean retreats, cottages and vacations by the sea, in this season those in the know think Christmas. This area has the designation of the 'Balsam Fir Christmas Tree Capital of the World' and won the ‘Forest Capital of Canada’ award in 1996. To find one of many farms, you need only drive the scenic coastal highway called the 103 for an enjoyable fifteen minute trip from Halifax. Taking exit nine brings you to route 12, and this is the thick of tree country. Less than a kilometer up this road will bring you to Hatt’s Christmas Tree Farm, which is a favorite of many, and a trip to pre-select your tree (usually in early November) is sure to be a pleasure for extended family and friends.

It can be difficult when presented with so many trees to make your selection. However, doing a bit of homework before you arrive can make this process easier. Examine the room where you want to put your tree. Trees have a way of looking "taller" when you get them home, be sure to measure ceiling height and floor space beforehand. Nova Scotia growers produce a variety of tree shapes, so with a little research, you can find the perfect tree for the spot. With this knowledge in mind, you can begin to walk through the miles of trails which intersect a tree farm. There is no need to walk far, unless to enjoy the scenery and Christmas fragrance, since beautiful trees abound. As this is a pre-selection process, an orange ribbon and marker will be provided to mark your tree, once chosen, but many people prefer to make their own. Marker has a way of coming off in the elements, and your own name tag, perhaps composed of wooden blocks spelling out a family name or decorated with garish glitter will be much easier to spot later, in a sea of orange ribbons.

All trees at the Hatt Christmas Tree Farm are $12, regardless of size. Soon the day will arrive to return for your tree. Christmas season can be a busy time, but do not fret. This tradition will certainly add charm to the holidays, and a few hours away from the shopping mall and into the tranquility of nature will be its own reward. Take along a measuring tape, and some cord to secure the tree to your car. It you have a long distance to travel take along a cover for your tree to protect if from the sun, wind, and salt. Your Christmas tree farm will provide you with a saw, and give you advice on cutting. Also, since December weather in Nova Scotia can be chilly, and cutting a tree can be hard work, why not bring along a thermos of hot chocolate and perhaps some cookies.

The festivities continue when you get your tree home, and get to the best part—decorating. Before this happens, it is best to bring the Christmas tree into a partly heated area, such as a porch or basement, for a few hours, and be sure to give it lots of water. This will help it adjust gradually to warmer temperatures and allow the branches to "relax" to their natural shape. Once this happens, it is easier to find the perfect place for your family’s keepsakes and treasured mementos. Finally, stand back and enjoy the majesty of your natural Nova Scotia Christmas tree - a true family product complete with the best of memories!

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