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Bottineau - Each Christmas season, millions of trees are purchased across the Nation. Few realize that the use of decorated trees as the centerpiece of this joyous celebration is a relatively recent tradition in America. This holiday season, people all over the world will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the first decorated Christmas tree recorded in 1510 in Riga, Latvia.

Most historians agree the first trees were cut from natural stands of timber. Today, most trees come from a tree farm where someone plants them, and each year growers plant one to three seedlings for each tree harvested.

While they're growing on farms, real Christmas trees stabilize soil, protect water supplies, provide wildlife habitat, absorb carbon dioxide, and create some beautiful green scenery. Often, Christmas trees are grown on soil that doesn't support other crops. Real Christmas trees are a benefit to the environment from the time they are planted until after the holiday season. Real trees can also be reused and recycled after the holidays.

Artificial trees are a petroleum-based product that consumes energy resources during fabrication. A burden to the environment, artificial trees aren't biodegradable and will remain in landfills for centuries after disposal. The average life span of an artificial tree is only six years.

The practice of using a real tree to celebrate the holidays is a natural choice. You can be sure it is fresh if the needles are green and flexible and don't come off readily when you pull the branches through your fingers or bounce the tree on the ground. A visit to a local "Choose and Cut" tree farm or the purchase of a tree grown in-state will ensure the freshest tree possible. To keep it fresh, store your tree in a cool, shaded place after purchase until you are ready to bring it indoors. Cut at least one inch off the base before putting it in water, and keep the tree stand container full of water until you discard the tree.

Real trees also provide something that artificial trees can't...a holiday fragrance and feeling. The best choice has always been the natural choice...a real Christmas tree!

For more information on real Christmas trees, check out or contact: Bob Harsel, North Dakota Forest Service, at (701) 683-4323.