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Have all the beautiful Christmas trees, pine boughs, wreaths and holly decorations put you in the spirit of the season? These holiday decorations all come from evergreens. They are exactly what their name sounds like – evergreen. Their leaves stay green on the plant all year round.

The Mini Page spoke with an expert from the U.S. Forest Service to find out more about evergreens.

A sign of life

For thousands of years, evergreen trees and bushes have been symbols, or signs, of hope during the dark, cold winters. Ancient people decorated their homes with evergreen branches during the winter solstice* (SOLE-stis), or the shortest day of the year.

*It comes on Dec. 21 or 22 each year.

Trees that stayed green in the winter, even when other plants looked dead, reminded people that spring would come again. Ancient people hung evergreen branches over their doors and windows to protect their families and keep out evil spirits.

Christmas trees

In the 1500s, Christians borrowed from the ancient people. They began bringing evergreen boughs and trees into their homes at Christmastime. They added decorations and lights. Today, the Christmas tree is one of the most beloved symbols of the season.

Although some Christmas trees are still harvested from the forest, about 98 percent are now grown on Christmas tree farms. Evergreens take from seven to 10 years to grow big enough to be used as Christmas trees.

Christmas tree farmers often have to trim the trees at the top so they look more like traditional Christmas trees.

The Scotch pine is the most popular Christmas tree sold in the U.S. The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City sparkles with about 25,000 lights. Inset, the holly tree is an evergreen. Its shiny leaves and bright red berries make it a perfect symbol for the winter holidays. Its tough, waxy leaves help it survive the cold. This is a flowering dahoon holly.

People check out Scotch pines at a Christmas tree farm near East Lansing, Mich.