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Christmas: tree-mendous? (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
Like it or loathe it, the time is upon us once again. This weekend will see millions of us making the trip that for some is a joyous experience, and for others will induce a festive headache. I am talking of course of the annual Christmas tree run. As a child, the Saturday in December when my father would drag a tree from the boot of his car would signal that Christmas had well and truly arrived. Once the furniture had been rearranged to accommodate the newest member of the family, the fun would begin. The decorations would be fished out before I lovingly adorned my new friend with twinkling lights and yards of tinsel (which my Mother would inevitably remove once I was asleep and re-apply less liberally).

No doubt about it, the acquisition of a Christmas tree really brings home the realisation that the big day is just around the corner. It is as synonymous with Christmas as Santa Claus or (these days to a lesser extent) Baby Jesus. The placing of a tree in the home and its subsequent decoration was a notion introduced by the Germans in the 17th century, and spread through mainland Europe in the early 1800’s when the custom became popular with the nobility in royal courts across the continent. Though Christmas trees were introduced into Britain through King George III’s marriage to princess Charlotte of Germany in 1761, they only became widespread in people’s homes after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert advocated the tradition in the 1840’s.

So, when does one put up their tree? Traditionally, Christmas trees were erected on Christmas Eve, and removed on 6th January at the cessation of the twelve days of Christmas, or ‘Twelfth night’, and it was seen as bad luck to display one outside of this period. In more recent times, trees tend to be seen earlier, usually around the second week in December. I am of course excluding high street stores, whose decorations seem to emerge at some point during October.

There are a number of options available when deciding where to purchase a tree. As well as your local garden centre, large supermarkets usually employ a tree seller outside their stores, making buying one more convenient and removing the need for a separate trip out. It needn’t be an arduous task however; some people I know make it an annual event, going out together as a family on the same day every year to select and bring home theirs.

Prices vary depending on size and variety of tree, with a 6 foot Norway spruce (infamous for its disastrous needle retention) costing around £20. Prices for the more popular Nordmann fir have soared this year, as many Danish growers of the non-needle shedding plant have been put out of business following an EU decision to scrap their subsidies. Roger Hay, the secretary of the British Christmas tree Growers Association said “About 15 per cent of all trees sold in Britain come from Denmark. This year that figure will be down to 2 per cent. We have got plenty of trees in this country but what we don’t have are plenty of Nordmann firs. Some people are going to have difficulty getting hold of them this year and as a result the price will go up.” This means that if, come new year, you want to avoid giving your vacuum cleaner a coronary from consuming excess pine needles, you should expect to part with upwards of £40.

If the thought of trekking out in the cold and lugging home an eight-foot shrub is too much for you, there is the relatively new revolution of online purchasing.
www.christmastreeland.co.uk is a website devoted to the mail order of Christmas trees and accessories. Now in its 10th year, the website claims to “specialise in supplying the best quality Christmas trees fast and efficiently to your home or business”. They have a wide range of trees available, and in addition to choosing the species of tree, you are able to nominate your desired height. And with next day delivery available to your door right up until Christmas Eve, it is fast becoming a popular way to buy a tree, hassle free.

As nice as it is to install a real life tree in your lounge, it is not a viable option for everyone. Those who live in top floor apartments or the elderly may not wish to overcome the logistics and bring in a real tree (not to mention disposing of it). Also, for those with a small dwelling, a natural tree may take up a little too much space. Up step the artificial tree then to solve the dilemna.

Whilst costing more than a real tree, (the 6.5 foot Bellington fir from the aforementioned website goes for £87.95) an artificial alternative can be easily stashed in the attic and used year after year. The other advantage of a synthetic tree is the smug satisfaction with which you can watch your friends struggling to dispose of their malting plant in the new year having folded yours away in seconds, with no mess.

So with your tree safely brought home (or delivered), how will you decorate it? In my experience, it was always with the same baubles and tinsel from the year before, and the one before that; the glistening balls given their chance to shine again after a year languishing in a box marked ‘Xmas stuff’. If that is true of your household, why not give your tree a makeover this year. It needn’t cost much; Tesco offer a stylish assorted ‘silver and ice blue’ pack of 50 tree decorations for under £6. You could of course opt for the Harrod’s ‘Joy to the World’ hand painted glittered individual Santa tree decoration, which at 11cm high costs a staggering £49.95. The choice is yours.

You could of course take the advice of a lazy tech-head friend of mine, who plans to bring his Christmas decorating into the 21st century by taking a photograph of someone else’s resplendently dressed tree, setting it as the screensaver on his widescreen laptop, and leaving it in a designated corner of his living room.