This time of the year is definitely a highlight on any trees calendar, or at least it is if you happen to be a Fraser, Balsam, Noble, White, Douglas or Grand Fir, a Norway or Colorado Blue Spruce or a Scotch Pine. We are of course talking Christmas trees here, and lots of them.
It has been estimated that approximately 200 million Christmas trees are bought worldwide each year, with more than 65 million being sold in Europe. In the UK alone, 8 million trees are currently being hauled into cars, dragged through homes and decorated to within an inch of their life. We’re not even going to guess at how many baubles or miles of tinsel are required for that many trees, though at a rough estimate, we’d say there are probably 4 million stars and 4 million angels involved.
Of course Christmas trees have long been the focal point in every festive household, but in just the last five years, sales of the rooted variety have grown a thousand fold in the UK. That’s an awful lot of tree. And an awful lot of needles being dropped, scattered, walked on and sucked up the Hoover everyday.
And if you’re wondering about the logistics of growing so many trees, well there are approximately 25,000 hectares of them (that’s over twice the size of the City of Manchester) growing around the UK, under the watchful eye of The British Christmas Trees Growers Association. And yes, all of these trees are earning their keep long before they hit that netting machine. Each acre of ‘Christmas tree’ provides the daily oxygen requirements for 18 people.
The Christmas tree has a long and interesting history, dating right back to the evergreen trees that were first used to celebrate the winter season before the birth of Christ. They weren’t decorated however until 1510, when those cheery folk in Riga, Latvia decided to start a trend that definitely lasted the distance. Small candles were first used to decorate trees in the middle of the 17th century, until Thomas Edison’s assistant, Edward Johnson, came up with the idea of making special electric lights for them in 1882. A much safer idea than a naked flame you would imagine, but far more annoying when that one solitary bulb comes loose. These Christmas tree lights went into mass production in 1890, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today cities across the country now compete to offer the largest, greenest, most sparkly tree on the block, to help draw in those shopping crowds. But few places have one as special as Westminster. Their tree has been sent over as a gift from Oslo, Norway every year since 1947; an expression of good will and gratitude for Britain’s help to Norway during World War II.
Well first up, rather obviously, is making sure you put your tree somewhere safe – so away from sunny windows, radiators, heating vents and any spitting embers that might escape an open fire. If you have children or pets running around it’s probably wise to secure it to a wall or a stable piece of furniture. Secure the tree that is, we’re not recommending tethering your toddler or pooch to the bookshelf with fishing wire over the coming weeks, no matter how tempting that idea might sometimes be.
When selecting your tree, make sure it’s a fresh one. No, this isn’t the same as the ‘sink or float’ egg test, you simply look to make sure the needles are shiny, green and staying put when you pull the branch – not dry, brown and collecting on top of your shoes when you tap it. When you finally get your tree into it’s final resting place and have finished your celebratory cup of tea, just remember that trees also love a good drink. In fact, they get so thirsty they’ll need to be continuously topped up with water for at least the first week.
And finally, once you’ve eaten the cupboards bare, stripped the turkey to it’s innards and all festive cheer is now but a distant memory, you’re thoughts will inevitably turn to how to get rid of that now very annoying tree in the corner of the room.
Tempting as the idea may be, we’d highly recommend that you NEVER burn your tree – inside the house or out! Burning it in the fireplace can contribute to creosote build-up and burning it outside can present a severe fire danger. Instead, dispose of your tree according to local regulations, via trash collection, chipping for mulch, or recycling. Recycled trees are used for all sorts of useful things, like making sand and soil erosion barriers and being fish shelters in ponds. So do a good deed for nature and set yourself up with some positive karma for the coming year.
Of course if you have a potted tree, then simply plant it back out in the garden, give it 12 months to recover and regrow and then you can start the whole Christmas hoopla all over again.