Pining for a perfect tree
Finding the right festive fir is easier than you think
There is no better job in the world than heading off to choose a Christmas tree, unless of course you are sent with a younger brother who all of a sudden gets ideas about what the perfect tree looks like.
I have spent many a year in what used to be Sextons in south Dublin, hoping to pick that picture-perfect tree, only to be pipped at the post by those sensible families who started their hunt well in advance and who left us lot with the fairly sparsely-branched, end-of-season offerings.
I'm into big rotund trees that smell like Christmas, not skinny little things that you would be afraid to hang a bit of tinsel on.
The problem with buying the real deal, as opposed to the perfect synthetic alternative, is the shelf life. Before you have the turkey carved, they are shedding more bits of themselves than the family dog.
There are a few tricks of the trade, along with leaving your newly-purchased tree outside, where it really wants to be, for as long as you can stick the pressure from the kids.
Once you bring home your lovely tree, give it a drink of water. You might well need something stronger after the trials and tribulations of choosing it, but look after its needs first. Leave it outside, out of the wind, in a bucket of water until you are ready to decorate. Whatever you do, if you are positioning your tree close to a radiator, turn off the radiator or expect the tree to fade fast.
Christmas tree farms are growing in popularity, pardon the pun. These give you the opportunity to load all the kids into the car for a family day out to choose the perfect tree.
From around December 1, these farms offer you the chance to pick your personal favourite tree, load it up on the roof rack and head home while listening to the dulcet tones of Bing Crosby singing 'White Christmas'.
I make it sound effortless, but it really can be if you head to the right place. Have a look at the FamilyFun website, www.familyfun.ie/coillte-christmas-tree-farm, which gives the names of Christmas tree farms all around the country, with phone numbers so you can double-check opening times and directions before you set off.
The only thing you have to worry about is which variety to choose. Number one in the popularity stakes is the Noble fir – it even sounds perfect. They are renowned for holding on to their needles even if you are economical with the water you give it before it becomes housebound.
Next is the Lodgepole pine, which has the most beautiful traditional fragrance and a lovely conical shape that makes it a very popular tree to choose for indoors.
The Norway spruce has also always been popular, and rightly so, but it really is a personal choice. By heading along to one of the many Christmas tree farms around Ireland, you should be able to choose the perfect tree for you and your family.
I have to say that I like to support local businesses and charities, and if the scouts are selling the trees down in the den again this year, I will support their efforts. At this time of the year, I think that keeping it local is really important.
I don't know about all of you, but the old Christmas letter to Santa Claus has had more amendments than is good for me in the last week. Himself is looking for a rabbit, which is a bit of a stretch for the man in red, but Santa Claus is of course magic, so you never know what will happen if you believe.