BANGOR, Maine — When it comes to a traditional Christmas celebration, for many Mainers, including local resident Derek Robishaw, having a freshly cut evergreen tree is the only way to go.
Typically, Robishaw gets the family Christmas tree in early December, but this year he was found at a Christmas tree lot on Union Street just four days before the holiday.
“We’re shopping [for a tree] so late because this young man came home from California,” Robishaw said Wednesday, pointing to his son, Peter, who lives in Long Beach. “It’s the first time in three years.”
The family decided it would be nice to hold off on their annual tradition of selecting a tree and then decorating it until after Peter arrived, his brother, Benjamin Robishaw, explained.
“Better late than never,” Benjamin Robishaw said about the timing. “We’re not about the artificial tree. An artificial tree is a cop-out.”
With all the planning and running around after Thanksgiving, Derek Robishaw admitted he was caught a little off guard, because “all of a sudden it became Christmas.”
The brothers helped their dad look around the roadside lot, run by Karl Gurschick for the last two decades, for something perfect. The family selected an impeccably pruned 8-foot tree that Gurschick wrapped for the ride home.
The Robishaw family hit the same Union Street tree stand last year.
“It was a good tree,” Benjamin Robishaw recalled of the 2015 tree. “We really didn’t want to take it out of the living room.”
Just down the street at Sprague’s Nursery and Garden Center, Jamie Cronin of Bangor stopped to get plant food for her dwarf lemon tree, and commented about the last six Christmas trees remaining there.
“It’s so sad these are still here,” she said. “They cut them down and they have no homes.”
Following a tradition handed down from generation to generation is the reason most people buy fresh cut trees, Mike Wellington, Sprague’s employee, said Wednesday.
Mainers like to cut their own or buy a freshly cut Christmas tree, according to data from the National Agriculture Statistics Service that shows Maine had 387 Christmas tree farms in 2012 and sold more than 195,833 trees. Data from 2014 shows that residents nationwide spent more than $3.3 million on fresh cut trees, the national agriculture group’s data states.
The group tracks 10 different types of evergreen trees used for the holidays — balsam fir, Colorado blue spruce, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, grand fir, Leyland cypress, noble fir, scotch pine, white pine, and white spruce. Fraser firs by far are the top sellers, the National Agriculture Statistics Service data shows.
Bond Mountain Acres, in West Newfield, is one of the few tree farms in York County that will be open on Christmas Eve.
“There is a guy coming up Saturday who called to make sure we’re open,” Joanne Bond said Thursday. “He’s from Connecticut and he’s meeting relatives in Maine and he wanted a Maine tree. That’s one of the reasons we stay open” on Christmas Eve every year.
The Bonds put up their tree two weeks before Christmas.
While many people take their trees down the day after the holiday or around New Year’s Day, “I leave mine up until Epiphany,” Bond said of the 12th day of Christmas, which will be celebrated on Jan. 6. “I think a lot of people have forgotten. We try to keep it as traditional as possible.”
“I hope the guy [from Connecticut] shows up before sundown because we want to go to the 10:30 [p.m.] Christmas Eve mass,” she said. “That’s a tradition too.”