The magic of the holidays is definitely here.

While driving home in the darkness, it is easy to spot the homes outlined in white twinkle lights or the flickering lights that are carefully wrapped around bushes and shrubbery. Holly wreaths hang from doors. Santa Claus lights up the sky from the rooftops. And Nativity scenes remind us of what Christmas was so long ago.

I must admit, I love to decorate for Christmas. I can’t wait for Thanksgiving to pull out the decorations that date back decades and carefully place them where they can be admired for just a little while, until the holidays are over for yet another year.

But decorating the tree is the best thing of all. Finding a tree branch for that decoration I made out of a canning jar lid when I was in the first grade or the fragile ornaments that were my Grandma’s so very long ago is what I so eagerly look forward to. Yet finding the right tree? Where do you begin?

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I have to admit, I have not had the best of luck with a live tree. Last year, the tree was so dry I took it down before the holiday and replaced it with another. My beautiful tree had turned to kindling with branches that were so dry they simply snapped off with little effort. This year, I would do my research and get this right.

I knew I wanted a tree that would not shed its needles. I also was looking for a tree that would emit that wonderful pine smell in the house and be a constant reminder that Christmas is just around the corner. After a bit of searching and asking questions, this is what I found:

In Indiana, the most commonly cut trees are firs, pines and spruces. If looking for a tree that holds it needles the longest, even when dry, the best choices are the Douglas, balsam and Fraser firs, the Scotch and white pines, and the blue spruce. The tree that fails this test is the Norway spruce.

If a tree with soft needles is important, the firs and white pine are the best choices. The Scotch pine and the spruces have the stiffest needles and are a bit difficult to handle.

Price is a concern for many people, as freshly cut Christmas trees can be costly. Overall, the least expensive tree to purchase is the Scotch pine, which is the most popular tree sold in Indiana. The Douglas fir and the Norway spruce tend to be the most expensive.

Decorating a freshly cut tree sometimes is a challenge. Some trees have softer branches, which makes it more difficult to hang heavier ornaments from it. The Scotch pine was found to have the firmest branches, which keeps those delicate ornaments from falling.

Buying a fresh-cut tree is a tradition for many families. A few guidelines, however, can help the tree stay fresh throughout the holiday season:

Make sure to give the tree a fresh cut of at least a half-inch before putting it into the tree stand.

Water the tree regularly. Studies have shown using only fresh water, with no additives, works best.

Keep the tree away from any open flame, space heater or any other heat source that could pose a fire threat.

Recycle the tree when the season is over. Trees are a renewable resource.

In the end, it was an old-time tradition that won out at my house. We purchased a beautiful blue spruce tree, complete with its prickly needles, to stand proudly in the family room corner.

It was the spruce tree that my dad used to cut out of our back yard when I was just a kid. It was the spruce tree that stood in the corner of our living room with icicles streaming down and reflectors attached to every light. I forgot about what tree would hold its needles the longest or what tree might be the cheapest.

In the end I bought the tree that clearly sang “Merry Christmas.”