by Mollie Rushmeyer
All you have to do is open a holiday home-décor magazine or step foot into the bustling Christmas aisles of any store to see the diverse spectrum of Christmas-tree styles and accessories for 2017. And whether your family leans toward the nostalgia of tradition, minimalist modern or even something a little more daring, there’s sure to be something fitting this holiday season.
One of the trends Liz Schultz of Sartell is seeing more of this year is going back to family roots in tree décor. Schultz is the owner of Unique Design, an interior design and decorating business.
“They want that old-fashioned Christmas feel, like their grandparents had,” Schultz said.
With such a media-driven culture, Schultz said, she’s seeing a desire to slow down at this time of year to enjoy some of the things they grew up with, like starting a collection of vintage ornaments or using pieces from their own childhood for their tree.
Rice-based Hinkemeyer Tree Farm owner Cheryl Thiele of Chanhassen said the traditional Christmas seems to be a common theme among the fresh-cut Christmas-tree farms as well.
“The trend we’re seeing is families keeping or starting a Christmas-tree tradition,” Thiele said. “They want the experience of visiting the farm, cutting it down, bringing it home and having that great smell in the home.”
She said for a number of years her family saw sales go down with people purchasing artificial trees, but during the past 10 years there has been an increased demand for real trees. One reason for this may be due to more studies on what happens to fake trees when they’re discarded in landfills— which is nothing, Thiele said.
“People are going green and realizing the fake trees sit in landfills for centuries. They won’t biodegrade,” Thiele said.
She and her husband, Randy, as well as her parents, the previous tree-farm owners, strive to make the Christmas-tree experience as family-friendly and fun as possible to create a tradition for parents to pass down to their children.
“We have an emphasis on family and really cater to kids,” Randy Thiele said.
They’ve also seen an increase in outdoor natural-décor items, such as spruce-tip metal planters, birch poles, berries and glitter sticks.
“We’re seeing a want to decorate the outside of the home as much as bringing a tree in to decorate the inside of the home,” Thiele said.
Fraser fir trees are a big hit this year at the Riverbluff Tree Farm near St. Augusta. Owned by Dr. Joseph Styles, a St. Joseph-based dentist, the farm was founded 25 years ago and now has 20,000 “pick-and-cut” trees for its perennial and new customers. Fraser firs are native to the mountains of North Carolina. They are bright-green trees with shorter needles and with a strong pine-y fragrance. They are a bit fussier to grow in Minnesota than other kinds of evergreens, but that’s what Styles’ customers want and so that’s what he grows, along with other kinds of trees.
“Pines were more popular and now firs are the hottest trend,” Styles said.
Styles and his wife go to great lengths to make Riverbluff Tree Farm a place for family fun. They offer horse-drawn wagon rides, sleigh rides and visits to the buffalo herd across the road. There is also a cozy warm-up area with treats for customers to enjoy. Styles’ wife is an expert maker of Christmas wreathes.
Another resource for real trees in the area is Rothstein Christmas Tree Farm owned by St. Joseph residents Jerry and Lois Rothstein.
Jerry Rothstein said he agrees the name of the game for his 30-year family-owned business is nostalgia — creating that tradition for families to continue each year.
“The kids love it and that’s really why we do it,” Rothstein said. “The kids will ask, ‘Jerry, do you have candy canes for us?’ We do it to give them that fun experience.”
All farms said they’re seeing people decorating earlier and earlier. Rothstein said there’s even families who put a tag on one of their 6,000 trees during the summer to reserve it for the holidays. And though he’s seen some fluctuation over time in sales, he said it has remained a positive experience for them.
“One thing you’ll never see is a crabby person cutting down a (Christmas) tree,” Rothstein said.
If the vintage or old-fashioned look isn’t your style, Schultz of Unique Design said she’s also seeing a more minimalist modern look that is a “less-is-more” approach. Black-and-white themed trees is another modern take on the traditional Christmas tree — black-and-white ornaments with accents of gold or silver.
For the proud Minnesotan, she has seen quite a bit of the ‘Up North’ theme, with the black-and-red buffalo plaid adorning the tree and fishing or hunting themes. She has even seen antlers, sometimes painted, on the tree as well.
Farmhouse décor in general is in vogue at the moment, and Schultz said she’s seeing that carry over into Christmas-tree decorating. In trying to achieve the farmhouse look, families might look for slightly traditional things, such as strung popcorn and cranberries, along with some rustic-chic pieces with wooden, burlap, and light, airy colors.
If people truly want to throw caution and tradition to the wind, Schultz said the ‘Charlie Brown’ very fake, very brightly colored trees are also in style.
Another avant-garde trend this year is hanging your Christmas tree upside down from the ceiling. Some claim this is a way to keep children and pets clear of the tree as well as provide added room for presents underneath.
And if you’re undecided about the many options, you may just decide to give a few different ones a try like Schultz and her family, who have eight Christmas trees in their house.
“I have many styles I want to exhibit,” Schultz said. “I really like to see a little bit of Christmas in every room of the house.”
They have a tree for the children to showcase their ornaments they’ve received each year, one wintry blue-and-white one that’s left up until January, a traditional red-and-gold tree filled with the heirloom ornaments of their family, four thin white food-themed trees in the kitchen and then a bright retro “plastic” tree with 1940s vintage ornaments from her husband’s grandma.
“I was finishing decorating and thought maybe I went a little overboard this year,” she said. “Then I kept finding articles about how decorating for Christmas early could actually bring you more happiness and joy because of the feelings it creates of nostalgia. So, I thought, nope, not too much at all!”
Decorating a Christmas tree for many families is as much a part of their Christmas tradition as drinking eggnog and spending time with one another. And as varied as those families are, so are the aesthetics for their trees.
Rushmeyer grew up in the Brainerd Lakes area then moved to St. Cloud to attend St. Cloud State University, pursuing a degree in community psychology and family dynamics. She now resides in Rice with her husband and their two daughters. Rushmeyer became a freelance reporter/ photographer with the Newsleaders in 2016, but her love of the written word started as a child. When she’s not writing news articles, she blogs, writes flash fiction, short stories and novels. She has been to Europe several times and enjoys travelling, spending time with her family, getting outdoors and reading.