The argument is not about whether your family celebrates with a real or fake Christmas tree, but rather how you use the holidays to build a stronger bond within your family based on traditions and togetherness. Our family has always made the commitment to go with a real Christmas tree. All I can say, it’s created some interesting adventures through the years and certainly provided the kids with some funny stories. Below are a few fun facts and interesting thoughts about the origin of the Christmas tree:
The Origin of the Christmas Tree –One of the earliest stories relating back to Germany is about Saint Boniface. In 722, he encountered some pagans who were about to sacrifice a child at the base of a huge oak tree. He cut down the tree to prevent the sacrifice and a Fir tree grew up at the base of the oak. He then told everyone that this lovely evergreen, with its branches pointing to heaven, was a holy tree – the tree of the Christ child, and a symbol of His promise of eternal life. In the 1840s and 50s, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made the Christmas tree even more popular. Prince Albert made it a tradition to always decorate a Christmas tree. Because of the public’s love for their King and Queen, they immediately copied the couple’s Christmas customs including the decorating of a Christmas tree and the displaying of ornaments. An engraving of the Royal Family celebrating Christmas at Windsor was published in 1848 and the earlier German traditions were copied and adapted.
Alternative Trees –Besides evergreens, other types of trees such as cherry and hawthorns were used as Christmas trees in the past.
Lighting the Christmas Tree –Thomas Edison’s assistant, Edward Johnson, came up with the idea of electric lights for Christmas trees in 1882. Christmas tree lights were first mass-produced in 1890.
The First Presidential Christmas Tree – 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 Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the White House lawn in 1923.
The Mayor’s Christmas Tree – The tradition of an official Chicago Christmas tree was initiated in 1913 when one was first lit by Mayor Carter H. Harrison in Grant Park. The official Christmas tree tradition at Rockefeller Center began several years later in 1933.
Big Business –Thirty-four to thirty-six million Christmas trees are produced each year and 95% are shipped or sold directly from Christmas tree farms. In the United States, there are more than 15,000 Christmas tree farms. There are approximately 350 million Christmas trees growing on U.S. farms. The First Christmas tree retail lot in the United States was started by Mark Carr in New York, in 1851. More than one million acres of land have been planted in Christmas trees. The industry employs over 100,000 people. More than 2,000 trees are usually planted per acre. On average 1,000-1,500 of these trees will survive. In the North, maybe, 750 trees will remain. Almost all trees require shearing to attain the Christmas tree shape. At six to seven feet, trees are ready for harvest. Christmas trees take an average of 7-10 years to mature. 82% of Christmas trees purchased were pre-cut and 18% were cut your own.
Top Selling Varieties –The best-selling trees are Scotch pine, Douglas fir, Noble fir, Fraser fir, Virginia pine, Balsam fir, and white pine. The top six Christmas tree-producing states are Oregon, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Washington & Wisconsin.
The First Fake Trees –Artificial Christmas trees were developed in Germany during the 19th century and later became popular in the United States. These “trees” were made using goose feathers that were dyed green and attached to wire branches. The wire branches were then wrapped around a central dowel rod that acted as the trunk.
Real vs. Fake –The number of natural tree sales has remained relatively stagnant since 2004, oscillating between about 27 million and 33 million a year. Fake tree sales have more than doubled during that time, from 9 million in 2004 to about 21 million last year. There’s been a steady decline in the number of real tree farmers for several years. Oregon, the nation’s top producer of Christmas trees, had 699 licensed growers in 2010. As of last year, that number dropped to 392. The average price was $75 for a real farm-grown tree last year, while the average price for a manufactured one was $107 and you can use it many times. There are some arguments in play that the Millennials are going to bring back the real Christmas tree in the next decade. Might actually be a business opportunity?