The Festive Mac 2010: Christmas trees for your desktop

Sections: Home and Personal, Mac Software, Originals

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The secret of growing good Christmas trees is to thin the stands when the trees are seedlings, but unless you’re in the Christmas tree business, it’s hard to justify the time.

I am a Christmas tree purist. I prefer a dark green balsam fir (Abies balsamea) with long needles and a fairly bushy shape, but one that grew naturally, the way God intended—none of this artificial shape-shearing that commercial Christmas Tree growers do—let alone one made in China from plastic and aluminum.


Our tree this year was uncharacteristically easy find. We took the top 6 1/2 feet of a 20-foot Balsam Fir alongside the road within view out our living room window that needed cutting due to imminent power line fouling. Tops of taller trees can often make excellent Christmas trees.

The Balsam Fir is the perfect tree for Christmas, with its soft, dark green needles, symmetrical shape and distinctive aroma. The fragrant Balsam fir, as one Nova Scotia grower puts it, is Christmas. Well, not really, but the Christmas tree is a very enjoyable cultural tradition.

treeAnother Nova Scotia Christmas tree grower, Lord’s Trees, has posted a downloadable Christmas Lot image as a Desktop background/wallpaper image. Unfortunately, it’s low-res for today’s monitors. You can find it at

Christmas Tree History

The first record of a decorated Christmas was in Riga, Latvia in 1510, and the first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531. And when Britain’s Queen Victoria married Germany’s Prince Albert in 1840, he brought the tradition to London. Pictures of the British Royal Family and their Christmas tree appeared in newspapers, and thousands of people in Canada, the United States, and England soon began decorating their own trees.

However, it’s very likely that many Germans who emigrated to the U.S. and Canada from Germany in the 1700s set up their own trees long before the British royals popularized the practice.

The first Christmas tree retail lot in the United States was reportedly started in 1851 in New York by Mark Carr. In 1856, Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States, was the first President to place a Christmas tree in the White House. President Calvin Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the White House lawn in 1923.

Today, the top selling Christmas trees are Balsam fir, Douglas fir; Fraser fir, Noble fir, Scotch pine and White pine.

While I’m not a fan of full-size artificial Christmas trees, I do like the virtual ones. Here are some Christmas trees for your Mac Desktop.

Macintosh Desktop Christmas Trees

X-MasTree 1.4

X-MasTree is a small (or medium, or large) floating Christmas tree for your desktop.

Double click the icon to launch. There are many options, including which color lights to display, lighting modes (static, blinking or fading), a few ornaments, and a badge displaying days left until Christmas. (Warning: setting the lighting mode to “fade” will beat the living snot out of your CPU.)


If you are familiar with browsing application bundles, you can add your own custom ornaments to X-MasTree. Simply create a transparent image 200 x 275 pixels and draw your custom ornaments on that. Make sure to save the file as a TIFF image with transparency turned on and LZW compressed. The file name must be either “CustomTop.tif” or “CustomBottom.tif”, or both. “CustomTop” images are drawn above all other ornaments and lights, and “CutomBottom” images are below all other ornaments and lights. Now place the image file in the “Resources” folder of the X-MasTree application bundle. Note: it may help to use one of the tree images (Tree0.tiff) from the resource bundle as a guide for placing your ornaments around the tree.

If you want to hide the custom ornaments but don’t want to remove them from the bundle, open up the terminal and type in:

    defaults write com.stimpsoft.xmastree _drawCustomObjects -integer 0

and to turn them back on:

    defaults write com.stimpsoft.xmastree _drawCustomObjects -integer 1

System requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.4.x or higher

X-MasTree is 159% Freeware. X-MasTree may be freely distributed, as long as no fees are collected for it. You do not have to contact StimpSoft™ or the author for permission to distribute this application.

Product [X-MasTree 1.4]

Christi’s Tree 2.1

Christi’s Tree is simply a Christmas Tree for your Mac. It sits on your desktop or in your dock to give your Mac that extra little bit of holiday cheer.

The tree has a lot of great features. You can add decorations like cranberry garland, red Christmas balls, and even flashing lights. It works in your dock, or as a floating window. And best of all, it’s free.

The left image below is Christi’s Tree with the cranberry garland and the red Christmas balls. If you can see that the balls are actually tiny glassy aqua-style balls. The tree in the middle is Christi’s Tree configured with no decorations except the star on top. It’s nice and simple. Just a tree. The tree on the right is Christi’s tree configured with everything. It’s even got the flashing lights (although they look better when they’re actually going). This screenshot makes them look a bit more psychedelic than maybe they really are.

Christi's1 Christi's2 Christi's3

System requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.0 or higher

Product [Christi’s Tree]

TreetopLights 2.4

TreetopLightsTreetopLights is an AppleScript Studio application that places a Christmas tree on the desktop and holiday lights on the menubar or screen edges. The desktop tree can be decorated with blinking or fading lights, ornaments, a treetop star, and perhaps some snow. The ambient lighting can be controlled for the appearance of a dimly or brightly lit room, and the transparency and size of the tree can be set to keep it out of the way, or set the perfect holiday mood. The optional but festive menubar lights can blink or glow to decorate the menubar, or even go around the screen. A countdown timer displaying days until Christmas and the twelve days of Christmas is also included for on-tree display.

There’s also an option to send a Christmas greeting through Apple’s Mail application.

System requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.3 or later

Product [TreetopLights]

Christmas Tree Creator 2004

Use Christmas Tree Creator to create fun digital Christmas trees by adding drag-and-drop ornaments and lights. Apply the editing tools to get everything just the way you want it, then share your creations by printing greeting cards, posters, emailing friends, or viewing your trees as animated screen savers.

Tree Creator

System requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.3.x or higher

Despite the name, this is the current version.

Product [Christmas Tree Creator]

Christmas Tree Bounce 1.0

Christmas Tree Bounce is a new Mac OS X screen saver that simply takes an image of a basic Christmas Tree and uses gravity to bounce it on the screen (various times).

Christmas Tree Bounce

The screensaver is small (116 KB) and uses very little system resources.

In theory, you can edit the package of the Screen Saver and replace the tree.png file with your own file (keep the name the same though, and be aware of the dimensions to make sure it doesn’t look odd). I’ve tried this and it does work.

System requirements:

  • This saver should work with 10.4 onwards, but only really guarantees 10.4.9 onwards.

Product [Christmas Tree Bounce]

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