Christmas Traditions

Cutting Christmas: A History of Christmas Tree Farms

Before heading out to cut your own Christmas Tree, learn about the very first Christmas Tree Farm and see how this holiday tradition first began!

by | December 13, 2022

Christmas Tree Farm - Row of Evergreen Trees, Cutting Your Own Christmas Tree, Loading A Tree on Truck

While artificial Christmas Trees have come a long way over the last 150+ years, some people still feel that there is no substitution over an authentic freshly cut, spicy-scented pine tree. For those, a real Christmas Tree is an important tradition and acquiring that tree each holiday season is an important part of that holiday tradition. Where the tree comes from will differ of course, depending on location and timing.

From Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, you can usually find live Christmas trees at many garden centers, home-improvement stores, Christmas tree lots, and holiday markets. You can also always enlist the services of a certain Elf Squad to assist you in finding that perfect tree. 

But one of the oldest -- and most cherished -- traditions is choosing your own tree to cut down at a Christmas tree farm.

A Holiday Visit To New Jersey

The first Christmas tree farm was actually set up in 1901 in New Jersey—it was a 25,000-acre Spruce farm near Trenton. At one point, Christmas tree farms were seen as a way to make up for poor farmland. Selling Christmas trees commercially started even earlier, though—a farmer from the Catskills brought his trees into New York City to sell several years prior.

However, until the late 1930s and early 1940s, many people still preferred to get their trees the old-fashioned way—straight from a forest. By the 1950s, farmers were selling trees commercially for the holiday season on a much larger scale. And by the beginning of the 21st century, almost 98 percent of live Christmas trees were grown on Christmas tree farms; that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 million trees!

In My Heart Is A Christmas Tree Farm

Not surprisingly, the trees grow well on flat parcels of land—depending on where you live, you may drive by acres of trees in a lot, just waiting to be all decked out at the appropriate time. Although tree farms can be found all over the United States (and may vary what grows depending on the terrain and weather) the Pacific Northwest is a huge region for growing Christmas trees; specifically, Douglas Firs, which take five to seven years before they are mature enough to sell. Another popular one? The Fraser Fir, which has been referred to as “The Cadillac of Christmas Trees”; it grows in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.

Popular choices include Douglas Firs, Scots Pine, and Fraser Firs—and customers sometimes still have the choice to cut down the tree themselves (be prepared; be very prepared) or have someone at the farm do it for them. Another option is to buy a potted tree, which can be replanted after the holiday season.

Interesting Fact: Theodore Roosevelt tried to stop the practice of having Christmas trees because he was concerned about destroying forests. His sons were able to convince him otherwise by getting the help of a conservationist to help figure to ways to cut down trees and also protect forests. In the 1930s, Franklin D. Roosevelt actually started a Christmas tree farm on his estate in Hyde Park, NY!

Today, Christmas tree farms often offer numerous additions to get shoppers even more in the holiday spirit, from kids’ activities to stands selling baked goods and holiday décor. Just don't be like Clark Griswold and pick a tree that won't even fit in your backyard!

Want help picking out the perfect Christmas Tree? Here are some of the things to look for when choosing the right Christmas Tree for your space.