Where do you fall on the great debate that is a real or artificial Christmas tree? Artificial trees have developed so much that many look real and research shows if a family keeps their fake tree for more than five years, the environmental impact then becomes less than a real tree. Certainly, when I’m lying on the floor holding the base of our real tree, as my husband adjusts it until it’s perfectly straight, I mutter that next year, we are definitely going all artificial.

Yet, once again, I just couldn’t resist the atmospheric smell of a Nordmann Fir and more so than that, picking our tree has become a family occasion. So last weekend, off we went to Killakee Christmas tree farm.

Located in the Dublin mountains, the farm is run by Justin and Karen Morton. Justin started planting Christmas trees in 1994 and 10 years later, they opened the farm for the pick-your-own tree experience. Now their children are involved as well as whatever cousins they can persuade.

Second year

This is our second year at the farm. It was a crisp winter day as we wandered through large trees and small. “What about this guy?” my four-year-old shouted through the forest. “Or this one,” my husband suggested. After years of tree shopping, he knows I’m like Goldilocks on a mission to find one that is just right. As I turned the corner, there it was-standing at 7ft tall, well proportioned, healthy and full. “I’ve found it,” I shouted triumphantly. A white tag proudly claims it as ours, and then the most exciting part- Justin arrives, the chainsaw fires up and our tree falls to the ground amid shrieks of excitement from my daughter.

Off it goes on the quad and while it’s being prepared, we sip hot chocolate. Dusk falls and the lights of Dublin city start to twinkle below. The cars on the M50 are like little dinkies and you can see as far as the Poolbeg towers. Justin’s elves put the tree on our car roof. At €60, it is a few euros more than the garden centre but the experience was more than worth it and I’ll be following all of Mary Keenan’s gardening tips to keep my tree healthy in the coming weeks.

Dusk falls and the lights of Dublin city start to twinkle below. The cars on the M50 are like little dinkies and you can see as far as the Poolbeg towers.

That was our second farm experience of the season. The weekend before, we went to Causey Farm in Fordstown, Co Meath to visit the man in red. Run by the Murtagh Family, the farm breeds limousine-cross cattle and Belclair ewes. They also grow wheat, spring barley, curly kale, beet and turnips. Santa is just one of their seasonal experiences, and it really is an experience.

We followed the trail around the farm and the outhouses, into visit Mrs Claus to stir her cake mix and make a wish, down the slide into the elves’ toy room and my favourite, the barn staging the nativity scene where the cattle were actually lowing. However, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the reaction in the sitting room as the ladder drops and Santa has a right performance trying to get down the chimney. Molly and Jack were called over and Molly couldn’t quite believe it that Santa knew she would like a bike. This Santa was in a league of his own and must have received expert training in the North Pole. Tickets were €29 per child and €19 per adult so for our family of four, it was €98, certainly pricey but we were over two hours on the trail and it was a memorable festive day out.

Farmers creatively developing alternative forms of income is celebrated here in Irish Country Living and these farm experiences kicked off Christmas for us.