Yankee Classic | Bethlehem, NH: Perfect Christmas Trees
The hay wagon slowed to a stop. We tramped along the straight rows of trees, proud and puffed up as new recruits. Five inches of snow crunched underfoot. All around us were the smells of Christmas: pine trees, new snow, horses, and wet wool.
We walked the rows and thought about how much future joy unfolded before us. Some 55,000 Christmas trees grow here at one time — all pushing toward that bright Christmas morning when they hold magic in their branches.
Our tree was near the end of a row, full-bodied and about 6Y, feet tall. We tagged it, cut it down with the bow saws provided, and dragged it to the end of the row. Volunteers pick up the trees and trailer them back to the main barn, where a contraption winds and twines them for car-top travel. We hopped the next hay wagon back to the barn.
Our lodging package included a wreath, too. The former electric plant behind the barn is stocked with fresh wreaths, tree stands, ornaments, and specialty trees. Sipping hot chocolate, we decided on the society’s “untraditional” Rocks wreath, decorated with cones, lotus pods, canella berries, and statice, and topped with a blue velveteen bow.
We set out on the mile-long Christmas Tree Trail and learned how the trees are cared for. Seedlings are four to five years old when they are first planted. They are fertilized in early spring, then in summer are sheared by hand into their conical shape. An average six-foot tree is over ten years old by the time it reaches your living room! Bird perches are sprinkled throughout the plantation to protect the fragile treetops. Even a red-winged blackbird could bend or break the top “leader” on a maturing tree. Kindergartners in Bethlehem plant a seedling and care for it over six seasons before harvesting it when they reach the sixth grade.
All that hiking and fresh air made us hungry again. We loaded our tree and headed to the village to mail Christmas cards and have a bite. Night was falling when we finally drove out of the mountains. I turned back to look at the peaks fading against the sky. The first stars were twinkling, and sure enough, the brightest one of all hung just over Bethlehem.