We have a tradition every holiday season: my family and sometimes select friends make a journey to New York City to view the marvelous store display windows and the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, which have been bedecked with Christmas ornamentation.

We include additional side trips to FAO Schwarz and the American Girl Doll store to really awaken the Christmas shopping spirit. I have been doing this pilgrimage since I have been married, and the family starts looking forward to it after watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

I had heard on the radio that this year’s Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is 76 feet tall, 47 feet wide and weighs 12 tons. (The requirements for a Christmas tree for Rockefeller Center are that it must be at least 75 feet tall and 45 feet wide.) It will have 45,000 lights attached to 5 miles of wire. This year’s Christmas tree is a Norway Spruce that came from Shelton, Conn. and is estimated to be 75 years old.

I always wondered what they do with the tree after Christmas; it’s too big to put through a chipper. According to news articles, the tree is recycled and milled into lumber to be used by Habitat for Humanity.

The concept of Christmas trees can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when Scandinavians and Germans set up evergreen trees inside their homes during the harsh winter months as a reminder that spring is not far away. Martin Luther — a theologian and Augustinian monk who deeply influenced the doctrines of Protestant and other Christian traditions — began the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree with small candles, which he lit to recreate the moonlight that glistened off of the evergreen tree branches in the forest.

By the 12th century, many households in Central Europe were hanging fir trees upside down from the ceiling at Christmas time as a symbol of Christianity.

There are two ways that you can purchase a Christmas tree. The most popular is purchasing a cut tree: it is easy to transport, set up and dispose of. The other way is to buy a live tree that has been grown in a container or dug from a field and is considered balled and burlaped.

If you opt for a live tree, you need to do some prep work for the successful survival of your tree. Remember, location, location, location is so important when planting your tree. That beautifully shaped 6-foot Christmas tree that fits so nicely in your living room can grow to be a behemoth.

Therefore, location is all-important for future growth of the tree. Once the perfect location has been established, the hole needs to be dug before the ground freezes. Store the newly dug soil in a wheelbarrow in your garage to prevent it from freezing. Pack the hole with leaves to form a dense mound and cover it with plastic weighted down with stones. This will keep the rain water from filling the hole.

One last thing that needs to be done for your tree is to acclimate it to temperature changes that will happen when you move it from outside to inside and vice versa. That can be achieved by storing it in a sheltered location, like a garage or porch, for a day or two. Now you are ready to plant and water it in thoroughly.

There are several criteria to look for when purchasing a cut tree. Make sure that the needles bend and are flexible. Bump the base of the tree on the ground to see if any needles drop. Feel the bottom of the stump; it should be sappy and moist. Make sure the trunk is straight for easy and proper placement in your tree stand.

Store your tree in a cool location until you are ready to bring it indoors and decorate. We spray our tree with a clear odorless fire retardant liquid called Inspecta-Shield Plus that will help protect the tree from catching fire. Before bringing the tree in, make a fresh cut at the stump so that it will absorb water more readily. Once the tree is set up and decorated in your home, make sure that you water it regularly to keep it fresh.

Have a safe and joyful holiday season. Merry Christmas to all!

“Autumn arrives in the early morning, but spring at the close of a winter day.” —Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973)

Craig Dupée is a garden-design consultant. He lives in Ewing with his wife and daughters. Send him your email questions at hort1014u@aol.com.