12/24/08 — Christmas tree choice becomes part of tradition

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Christmas tree choice becomes part of tradition

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on December 24, 2008 1:46 PM

What's green, red or white, can stand upright or hang from the ceiling and is sometimes called "live" when it's actually dead?

The Christmas tree is a staple of the holiday milieu: Christmas revelers rock around them, decorate them and even sing about them.

Each year, some 10,000 couples get engaged in front of their tree, and millions of children wait impatiently for Christmas morning to see what Santa left under the boughs.

But where did the Christmas tree come from? What Prometheus of plastic introduced the artificial tree? And how do Wayne County residents answer the age-old question: multicolored lights or white ones?

Anita Kaglic started a special tree tradition when her oldest son was a baby.

"The kids pick an ornament every year," said Mrs. Kaglic.

Now, her oldest son is 30, and the tree branches drip with decorations from all three of her children.

These days, those branches are artificial.

"We used to get live, but we switched," she said.

One thing hasn't changed, though.

"The lights always have to be colored," said Mrs. Kaglic.

This year's Christmas tree will be particularly special for Julie Woodring. She was in the Berkeley Mall Hallmark store the Tuesday before Christmas, shopping for a keepsake "Baby's First Christmas" ornament for her 12-day-old son, Lee, and ornaments for her other children.

Her family always has a real tree, and not just any real tree will do, she said.

"It has to be a Fraser fir," said Mrs. Woodring. "That makes it smell like Christmas."

And the lights? Multicolored.

"That's more in keeping with the kid thing," she said. "Maybe by the time they're teenagers, we'll have white."

On the other hand, artificial trees are less messy, said Wanda Ramsey.

"They're not as hard to clean up. You don't have to worry about watering them every day," she said.

There are always white lights and ornaments on her family's tree.

"They belonged to my mother," said Ms. Ramsey.

The holidays are a time to spend with family and friends, and, for some, a time for honoring the memory of loved ones who are no longer here.

That's why the three white dove ornaments are always nestled on secure branches of Melody Outlaw Bryan's tree.

She received the first dove in a flower arrangement when her mother died in 1978.

"It goes on before anything else," she said.

When she lost her brother and father, she bought doves for them, too.

When the tree comes down after Christmas, the doves are the last things to come off, Mrs. Outlaw Bryan said.

They always use colored lights, but her family did one thing differently this year.

"For years we used a fake tree because my son has allergies," she said.

Real trees used to make him sick, but they hoped he had grown out of the allergy and tried a real tree this year, she said.

"For two or three weeks I was sick, but not now," said Kade Outlaw Bryan, now a teenager.

And what did he think of the upside-down trees?

"No way," he said.

Christmas tree connoisseurs in Wayne County who are not allergic to real trees are lucky to live in one of the premier tree-growing states in the country.

More than 50 million Fraser firs cover some 25,000 acres in North Carolina, and N.C. tree growers produce about 19 percent of all real Christmas trees sold in the United States, according to the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association's fact sheet.

A North Carolina Fraser fir has graced the White House 11 times since 1971, and was selected as the top tree again this year through an annual contest sponsored by the National Christmas Tree Association.