It's easy to overlook the important role Christmas trees have in defining the holiday season for the United States. Millions of families will put a tree in the window, whether an artificial one from the storage closet or a fresh one straight from a seller. But as Tom Atwell writes in the Portland Press Herald, there's more to buying a non-artificial tree than just picking one out from the local Home Depot parking lot. Many Americans have the option to optimize their tree purchase to suit a variety of ancillary needs. Choosing where you buy the tree can be just as much a tradition as the tree itself:

"Jay Cox has been selling Christmas trees for five years at The Old Farm Christmas Place in Cape Elizabeth [in Maine]. Buying a tree at a farm has several advantages, he said.

'It’s kind of an event,' Cox said. 'People go out in the field and they cut it down, so they are a little more involved. And it’s as fresh as you can get. If you cut the tree, take it home and get it in water right away, it’s going to last a long time.'

...

This year, Cox let customers pick their trees as early as Nov. 15. They hop on a wagon, ride through the rows of trees, select one they like and tag it. When Christmas nears and they’re ready to put up their tree, they return to either cut it down themselves or have Cox’s crew do it."

Obviously those of you in Las Vegas probably don't have as much opportunity to chop down your own tree as those in Maine, but if the option is open it may be a fun way to make tree selection a family affair. Atwell also writes about the benefits of buying trees from local charities rather than big companies, as the money spent will be cycled back through the community. 

Another option for tree buyers is to choose between living and cut trees. Living trees can be replanted outside. Cut trees stay indoors and then get disposed of. For any cut tree, three weeks should be the longest you keep it indoors. After that, Atwell explains, the pine needles dry out, fall off, and create a fire hazard.

Read more at Portland Press Herald for all your Christmas tree needs.

Photo credit: Andrey_Kuzmin / Shutterstock