Oh, Christmas Tree

by Marion Rhodes
Contributing writer

Oh, the troubles Chevy Chase went through to get the perfect Christmas tree in the 1980s classic “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

Watching the father search the forest for a primary specimen, dig it up by hand and struggle to get it home can make anyone appreciate the
convenience of a store-bought tree.

Luckily, there are many alternatives for finding a fresh Christmas tree that don’t involve hair-tussling actions. In Germany, they might even include a hot beverage and a romantic camp fire.

Going in the woods and cutting down your own tree is strictly forbidden in Germany. However, many communities have tree farms where people can select the tree they want and have it cut down freshly.

The Weber family of Niederöfflingen (near Wittlich) has turned its tree farm into a Christmas adventure land. It is one of the few places in the Bitburg area where people can actually cut down their own trees, as long as they are within the culture’s boundaries. Afterward, customers can warm themselves with hot spiced wine or apple juice at a camp fire while the workers put a net around the tree for easier transport.

Such offerings are common at community tree farms. Food, drinks, even carriage rides often make tree shopping there a lot more fun than at the store.
“It’s an experience for the whole family,” said Franz Weber, who runs the 50,000-tree culture outside Niederöfflingen with his wife, Pia, and their four children. For 12 years, the family has provided a selection of Norway Spruces, Noble Firs and other popular evergreens.

Their most in-demand tree is the Nordmann Fir, which, according to the German Forest Protection Association, SDW, accounts for more than 50 percent of Christmas tree sales in Germany.

“It is a beautiful tree that holds its dark needles for a long time,” Mr. Weber said.
Unlike in the United States, where the Christmas tree is often set up weeks before the Christmas holidays, Germans traditionally wait until Christmas Eve to put up the tree. Usually, the children are lured out of the room and are only allowed to enter once the tree has been decorated. It is common for a German Christmas tree to remain in the living room until Three Kings Day on Jan. 6.

The Webers have sold trees to both Germans and Americans before and have noticed this difference in timing. However, Mr. Weber said, the American tradition is increasingly making its way into German households.

To keep a tree from losing its needles early, it should be kept in water in a cool, dark place. Cutting off a slice of the stem before moving the tree inside the house further increases its life span, Mr. Weber said. Some people also like to add sugar to the water.

Those who shun the effort of cutting down a tree themselves can buy one already cut from tree farms in many German villages and at Christmas markets. Various German supermarkets and hardware stores also sell trees in the weeks before Christmas.

Getting rid of the tree after the holidays is another matter. Some communities offer pickup services, but mostly, people have to deal with the remains themselves. Burning the tree in the yard or dropping it in the forest is illegal. A better option is to cut it up to make it fit in the grey trash bin. Alternatively, people can keep it until the next bulk trash pickup date or take it to one of several recycling centers, called Grüngutannahmestellen, in the area.

The Cub Scout/Boy Scout 2009 Christmas tree sale will be held from today to Dec. 23 on Lincoln Boulevard on Ramstein. Weekend sale hours are 10 a.m. to
8 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. Weekday sale hours are 5
to 8 p.m.