Kicking Off The Season

Kicking Off The Season

The Christmas season is composed of traditions; for many, the tradition that marks the start of the season is undoubtedly the Christmas Tree.

While the origins of placing evergreen trees inside our homes are disputed, the modern version of the practice is believed to have started in Germany during the 16th century.

The first written mention of a "Christmas Tree" came from a town accountant in the Alsace region of France. "The accountant recorded a charge of 4 shillings to pay the forest wardens, who looked after the fir trees in the town's communal forest. He added that the inhabitants of the town would be able to take a fir tree from the forest to decorate "as has been done since the time immemorial."

To this day, the Christmas market in Alsace, a large outdoor area that sells all things Christmas, draws people from all over Europe each season.

For those in the Salina area, a similar experience awaits without the need to travel to France.

BEL Tree Farm, a family-operated Christmas tree farm in Saline County, has been around since 1965. For the past five years, Aaron and Michelle Peck have operated the farm, which grows Scotch and Austrian Pines.

"I used to work at the tree farm when I was in high school. They used to have a branch in Smolan, and I used to work out at that tree farm. There was an opportunity for us to take over the business. We wanted to carry on that tradition and provide it for other families in the region.", said Aaron Peck.

Counter to the mundane experience of purchasing a polyurethane tree from a big box store, BEL Tree farm is 20 acres of pure Christmas. Whether you're taking a tour of the farm on a horse-drawn hay rack ride or enjoying Christmas music, hot cider, and popcorn in front of the big wood stove, you are sure to kick off the Christmas season right with this age-old family tradition.

This weekend marks the start of the season for BEL Tree Farm, which typically runs through the second weekend of December.

The farm does 80% of its business in the first week and has begun drawing a growing number of customers from outside the area. While many tree farms across the state have shut down, Michelle Peck said, "We just keep growing. We've been getting quite a few families from Fort Riley, Junction City, and Manhattan."

BEL Tree Farm believes they have enough trees to meet demand, but the year was challenging. The drought has been particularly tough on young trees. It is normal for tree farms to lose some trees each year, but more young trees were lost this year with the lack of precipitation. However, the mature trees in the five to six-foot range are in excellent condition. BEL Tree Farm has also brought in a good supply of the popular Fraser Fir trees, which don't grow in Kansas, from a farm in Michigan.

A visit to BEL Tree Farm each season is a long-standing tradition for many families in the area, and if you're looking for a new tradition to kick off the holidays this year, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more festive spot in Saline County.

Aaron Peck said, "We're always looking for families to start new traditions. Those who haven't been here before, come and check us out. If nothing else, come inside and enjoy some cider and popcorn. Take a ride on the horse-drawn wagon and enjoy being outside."

- BEL Tree Farm opens for the season on November 26th at 9:00 am and usually operates through the second weekend of December.

- There is NO Admission Fee, and you don't have to buy a tree.

- The farm also offers fresh wreaths for those not in the market for a tree.

- Children receive a free Christmas tree ornament.

"The Christmas Tree Reigns in Alsace." Noel En Alsace,

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