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Spruce or fir?

At the end of the year comes the festive season, which is marked by spruce and fir trees. It is the time between Christmas and New Year when we say goodbye to the old and hello to the new year. The days are getting shorter and the nights longer. This reaches its peak at the end of December and ancient peoples believed that nature was dying. To alleviate this, we use the greenery of conifers and other evergreens in decorating our homes as a symbol of eternal life.

The spruce tree decorating custom originates in the Germanic world and it became fully observed in Slovenia sometime after World War II. Before that, in our region only Nativity scenes were set up, announcing new life, new times and thus a new hope.

In the period after the war, the use of the Christmas tree as a symbol of hope and a new beginning also spread across our country.

Slovenia is mostly covered by forests, and the leading conifer is certainly the Norway spruce (Picea abies), so it is not surprising that most Slovenes use the Norway spruce to decorate their homes.

We have different notions about it. Christmas fir trees, New Year's fir or spruce trees, however in Slovenian homes can be found both, trees and nativity scenes. 

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Usage history

Greenery, as the main element of decorations, represents eternity. In these gloomy months of the year, the green colour itself reminds us of something fresh, something that grows, develops and represents life. If we only imagine the time after 1 November and leading up to the new year, when the world outside is blanketed in snow and cold, and when the trees lose their leaves, then we can say that which is green is life. Even in the Advent season, when Advent wreaths and other decorations are at the forefront, greenery plays a prevalent role.

The traditional Advent wreath of our region was woven from spruce branches with the addition of four purple candles and four bows of the same colour.

Spruce branches with their robust structure and low persistence did not last long, especially indoors, but unfortunately for many years there was nothing else to replace them.

  • Adventni venček

    The Advent wreath. Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

What about fir?

Silver fir (Abies alba) is an indigenous species in Slovenia, but it is displayed much less frequently.

On one hand it requires fresh, nutritious and deep soil, and on the other hand plenty of air humidity. The largest fir stands in Slovenia are located in the south of the country, further extending into neighbouring Croatia. One of their biggest enemy is definitely deer, as they feed on young tree tops in the winter, eating them as a dessert. This is why in our region you will hardly find a beautiful, evenly and strictly pyramidal mature fir tree. At least not in large numbers. It is accordingly difficult to find a fir tree for Christmas decoration at our markets.   

  • Silver fir

    Silver fir (Abies alba) in the Kočevje forests. Photo: Peter Ribič

At large shopping centres its relative is available, the Caucasian fir (Abies nordmanianna), which from a decorative point of view certainly has the best properties of all fir trees. This is a fir tree that originates in the Caucasus (Georgia), while the largest growers of Christmas trees are located in the north of Europe. Today Denmark and Germany are the largest producers of these trees in Europe. Caucasian fir has become synonymous for durability, beauty, and dense and compact growth. With its long, smooth and brush-like lined needles with a blunt tip and wonderful scent, it has become synonymous with Christmas. Currently, this is the most beautiful example of perennial greenery for a variety of uses and, in addition, it will not shed needles after two months or more, even if it is not kept in a bucket of water.


Naj bodo prazniki okrašeni po vaše

Ne glede na to, kaj bomo izbrali, je zagotovo najpomembnejša izvirnost in unikatnost. Nič ne more nadomestiti praznične topline v domu, družine, ki skupaj krasi božično drevo in ga okrasi z vsem, kar jim je všeč. Naj bodo letošnji prazniki narejeni po vašem okusu, saj vam bodo tako ostali v najlepšem spominu.

May the holidays be decorated to your taste

No matter what decoration we select, the most important thing is certainly originality and uniqueness. Nothing can replace the festive warmth in a home, a family gathered to adorn the Christmas tree and decorate it with everything they love. May this year’s holidays be made to your taste, as they will remain in your fondest memories.

Author: Peter Ribič

Date: 2. December 2020

Time to read: 2 min