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Christmas is Different But Will Not Disappoint!

An exhibit of aluminum trees can be found at the Transylvania Heritage Museum, featuring the Colors of the 1950’s. Photo courtesy of A.T.O.M.

Asheville – Wouldn’t you know that the very year we are expected to stay home, not congregate with friends but keep to your immediate family,  there would be a shortage of live Christmas trees!  That is what one keeps hearing.   The corner lot where you used to get your Christmas tree may not be there this year, as the vendor just couldn’t find any live trees.   Although buzzsaws have been chopping away in the mountains on tree farms since early November, most of those Fraser Firs trees were being bound, packed and shipped to other parts of the country.

The North Carolina Christmas tree industry is apparently the second-largest in the nation, harvesting more than four million trees a year and producing more than 26% of the Christmas trees in the United States.  However, if you go to the website of the North Carolina Association of Christmas Trees, you will see clearly that wholesale inventory is sold out.  Of course this is good news for the tree farmers, but those of us who want a green, fresh smelling, live tree in their home, it would be wise to buy early and not wait until the last minute this year.

So let’s check out some of the local tree vendors, such as Tom Sawyer Christmas Tree Farm & Elf Village in Glenville, just outside of Cashiers in Jackson County.   Well, as far as his wholesale market is concerned, he is sold out. The farm will have “Choose and Cut” trees from November 20 – December 20 (closed on Thanksgiving) for those coming to the farm.  Trees range from 3’ to 12’ tall, and prices start at $29. They provide handsaws and have helpers all around the farm ready to assist.  They will bail the tree and tie it to your car. They can also wrap someone’s tree in burlap to protect it.   Santa Claus will be there on the weekends, with requests from children given at a distance;  there will be horse drawn carriage rides and tractor pulled hayrides ($5.00 per person) to see the Fraser fir tree farm; fresh wreaths and garlands can be picked up; but due to Covid 19, there will not be an Elf Village this year.

The family-owned Cartners Christmas Tree Farm has been in business for many years—for over 60 years in Newland, N. C. Last year Cartners won first place in the N.C. Christmas Tree Association Tree Contest. The family also presented Governor Cooper with a Fraser fir grown on their farm. This year however, Cartners also has sold all the trees designated for wholesale distribution.  This year, respecting current health concerns, the farm is offering freshly cut, pre-order only, Fraser fir trees, wreaths and garlands, then select a pickup date (Nov. 21-22, Nov. 26-29 or Dec. 5-6) at the Red Barn, 901 Balsam Drive, Newland, NC 28657. According to Virginia Cartner, “Sadly we are not allowing anyone in the field to pick and choose, as we usually do.”  To place an order, email vwcartner@gmail.com or call 877-384-8733. When you arrive at the barn, the Cartners’ team will load your order.

The French Broad River Garden Club’s 93rd Annual Greens Market will be Online Only for 2020.  The traditional Greens Market usually held at 1000 Hendersonville Road can be found online at www.fbrgcf.org/greensmarket.  The vendors are offering fresh greenery including wreaths, garland, arrangements, and clippings, as well as specialty items such as pottery, wood work, iron work, chocolates, local honeys, vinegars, spiced nuts, and festive paperwhites.  Orders will be available for pick up at assigned times to allow for social distancing at 1000 Hendersonville Road per CDC-recommended guidelines on the following dates: – Saturday, December 5th from 12-4pm and – Sunday, December 6th from 12-4pm.  One hundred percent of the Garden Club’s proceeds supports local horticultural and conservation scholarships. Be sure to go to this online website for some lovely high quality local items produced by fine craftsmen.

The Biltmore House Where Magic Abounds

The yearly traditional tree raising event at the Biltmore House had to be a virtual event this year.  A 35-foot Fraser Fir was brought to the house by Santa in a horse drawn carriage, then pulled into place by a host of workers on November 4th. The decorating of the tree took place overnight. The tree was grown at Andrews Nursery in Newland. George Vanderbilt himself started this tradition years ago.  When touring the house,  one can find hundreds of twinkling decorated trees, wreaths, thousands of poinsettias, garlands,, ribbons, and kissing balls.  There is even a huge Norway spruce on the lawn outside, beautifully lit for candlelight evenings. Since prime dates and times sell-out in advance and space is limited, plan ahead and book dates and times for either a daytime or candlelight tour.  You might want to pick an evening when a particular musical group is singing in the House.  Tickets start at $84/adult. Prices vary by date. Kids ages 10-16 are half the price of adult admission. Kids ages 9 and younger are admitted free.

The NC Arboretum Winter Lights Program

For another event, perhaps you might want to go to the  North Carolina Arboretum Winter Lights show?  This year, it will be a drive through experience only. For safety’s sake, the Arboretum is not allowing leisurely strolling though the grounds to see the light displays.   As part of the show’s redesign, visitors will enjoy several new nature-themed displays, including winter wildlife, colorful butterflies, a special insect lantern exhibit and a giant daisy “garden.” Upon arrival, guests will select a special radio station that features the sounds of their favorite holiday tunes to accompany the show from inside their vehicle.  The Arboretum has also extended the show’s dates and times to provide better accommodation for guests. Winter Lights will now be held November 20, 2020 – January 10, 2021, from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. (incoming gate closes at 10 p.m.). Pre-sale admission is $25 per personal vehicle and $30 at the gate the night of the event.  Designed with an artistic aesthetic, this family-friendly event features beautifully lit displays and glowing landscapes nestled along the Arboretum’s woodland edge and garden areas.

Asheville Nativity Exhibit 2020

The breathtaking Asheville Nativity Exhibit has always had a large assortment of beautiful Nativity scenes from all over the world at the First Baptist Church on Oak Street.   This year you will only be able to see the lovely creches virtually not in person,  starting December 1.  It will not be a physical display with live music on the stage, as with so many visitors managing social distancing per government regulations seems too difficult to accomplish.

The depiction of the Nativity Scene is one of the oldest and most beloved Christmas traditions. A crèche is a three-dimensional artistic representation of the birth of Jesus. While focusing on the central figures of the mother Mary and Christ Child, crèche artists often telescope time and place to bring together a host of earthly and heavenly participants – shepherds, animals, angels, wise men, and commoners.   As their website states. “We love our Asheville Nativity annual event, and we deeply appreciate each of you who have attended, volunteered, performed, loaned sets, and otherwise supported this Christmas celebration!” Do visit www.theashevillenativity.org to have a peaceful Christmas virtual experience.

Aluminum Christmas Tree and Ornament Museum (A.T.O.M.)

For a unique holiday outing, you might want to go to Brevard to see some artificial trees at the Transylvania Heritage Museum at 189 West Main Street.   “The Colors of the 1950’s” an exhibit of aluminum trees, started and curated by Stephen Jackson, is being shown for the third year.   You will be sure to smile at these ultimate sustainable trees, which were chic in the 1950’s. They are the polar opposite of a “live” growing tree.   Perhaps you happen to remember seeing these Vintage silver trees?  In one room Elvis is shown with themed cutouts of the rock ‘n’ roll icon, and the sex symbol blond bombshell Marilyn Monroe is also featured. In addition, in the A.T.O.M. gift shop there are some amusing 2020 Christmas ornaments, that will undoubtedly remind you or your friends of the 2020 pandemic experience.  For $10.00 you can buy a small replica of a 48 pack of Charmin soft toilet paper or a small bottle of Purell to hang on your tree as ornaments.  The A.T.O.M. exhibit is open 1-7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday through January 9th.  The exhibit will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.  The exhibit is free, but of course donations are accepted.

Yes, many of the Christmas festivities one often attends are taking place this year, but with variations to suit the situation.   Before attending any event, be sure to double check the specifics by phone or looking on the website for the latest information.