This Christmas is an important first for the Hahn family of Fairfax -- so, they said, they are doing it right.
On Saturday, the family braved the cold to buy their Christmas tree, the first for 1-year-old twins Ellie and Lucy Hahn.
"We wanted to make their first memory of Christmas special. Even if they don't remember it, it will be nice for us. We want to make it picture perfect," said Roger Hahn, father of the twins.
The family picked out a Fraser fir, one of the more popular picks because of its soft needles and familiar aroma, said Brian Barnes, owner of the tree lot at Pan Am Shopping Center in Fairfax.
"I think more people are leaning toward real trees now," he said. "They want that real Christmas smell." Barnes and his father, Bud, have been in the holiday tree sales business since 1968. Barnes began selling trees 25 years ago, when he was 9. During his time on the tree lot, Barnes said he has seen the tree trend shift, from artificial to actual, from fir to spruce and so on.
The Great Recession, he said, has affected tree sales like anything else.
However, Barnes added, "Everybody needs a tree."
"Last year's snow really hurt business. Nobody could get out and get their trees," he said. "It was very busy on Black Friday and Saturday," he added, describing last week's sales. "A lot of people were out shopping and got their trees too."
Christmas tree farming is a major part of the agricultural industry in the commonwealth, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Each year, more than 1 million trees from hundreds of farms in the state are cut and sold.
There are few farms that grow Christmas trees locally, Barnes said.
"I just think there's been such an overwhelming growth with residential development that there's no place to grow them," he said.
The popular Fraser fir grows outside of Fairfax County, which lacks the higher elevations of the Appalachian Mountains in southwestern Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee where the trees grow, said Krop's Crops farm manager Lauri Krop Omwake.
Omwake's father, Larry Krop, has sold Christmas trees for nearly 30 years, she said.
The seasonal, 20-acre farm is located in Great Falls and is one of the few local farms still growing trees for sale.
The family grows white and scots -- or Scotch -- pines, Canadian, blue and Norway spruce and Douglas firs.
The Douglas fir is the most popular locally grown tree, Omwake said. The family imports Fraser firs from North Carolina, as does the Barnes family.
"People aren't buying as many trees as they used to," Omwake said, adding, "Business-wise, we do better during Christmas time. It's not as labor intensive as the other crops."
Prices on Christmas trees, she said, have stayed flat for about five years.
"The biggest weekends are the first and second weekends in December," she said about sales. "A month is about the average for keeping a tree, even for people who don't know how to care for trees."
Timothy M. Williams of McLean is a past president of the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association.
He said, "What we're finding is generations X and Y in particular are looking for the traditional Christmas feel ... They bring their children and just want that old-fashioned Christmas. They bring hot chocolate or cider and cut down the tree as a family.
"I'm not going to be able to compete with the Wal-Marts and the Targets, and I'm not trying to. What I'm trying to do is create an experience they'll remember as a family."