17 Secrets Your Christmas Tree Seller Isn’t Telling You
Watch out for the faux firs!
For most of the 90 percent of Americans who celebrate Christmas, the tree is the holiday’s cherished centerpiece. Decorating a tree indoors to mark the Christmas season is a tradition that dates back to 16th century Germany, and appeared in America as early as the 1830s. Yet, despite the centuries we’ve collectively devoted to decorating conical firs, there’s still plenty we don’t know about Christmas trees—and plenty of info the men and women who sell us said trees keep to themselves.
Before you spend your hard-earned cash on a lackluster holiday decoration, discover the secrets your Christmas tree seller isn’t telling you. And when you’re finally done untangling the last of your Christmas lights, start checking off everyone on your Christmas list by discovering these 21 Genius Ways for Making Holiday Shopping Less Miserable.
There are benefits to artificial trees.
If there’s one thing that your Christmas tree vendor hates, it’s the artificial tree industry—and yet, there’s no denying that there are perks to going plastic. A faux tree is more economical over time, and allows you to sidestep the heavy lifting and sticky, sappy setup associated with real Christmas trees.
Sure, you miss out on the tradition of buying your tree from a charming little vendor, and there are of course some very valid environmental concerns associated with the PVC in fake trees, but if it’s convenience you’re after—and you’ve got the storage space for the other 11 months of the year—artificial trees do have their benefits.
You can buy live trees online.
Your Christmas tree vendor works tirelessly during the selling season to staff their shops, so it would not exactly be to their benefit to announce to their customers that these days, there is a very nice selection of live trees that you can buy online. In fact, you can buy them right on Amazon, where they’re balled and shipped directly to your home, giving you more time to spend curled up with a book and a hot cocoa, and less time lugging around a sap-covered, 50-pound plant. And for more ways to get into the holiday spirit, consider paying a visit to one of The 23 Most Magical Christmas Towns in America.
Christmas trees can trigger allergies.
As winter descends upon us with its blustery winds and bitter snow storms, many can expect to feel a bit under the weather. But what many of us don’t realize is that sometimes our symptoms are actually the result of allergies. As reported by ABC News, though you’re unlikely to be allergic to your Christmas tree itself, live trees can harbor mold that multiplies rapidly over the course of its stay in your living room. Researchers found that over a two-week testing period, mold spores increased from an average of 800 spores per cubic meter to over 5,000 spores per cubic meter, about five times above normal. And for more surprising things causing those sniffles, check out the 23 Weirdest Things You Can Be Allergic To.
You get better trees by buying before Thanksgiving.
Unpopular opinion time: you don’t have to wait until after Thanksgiving to get your tree. Most people plan to get their trees just after Thanksgiving, and because of this, many vendors wait to set up shop until then. But waiting until late-November can mean competition for the freshest trees, and higher prices as a result. Many tree farms that allow you to cut your own tree offer special sales in mid-November, just before the rush. (Also, online shops actually insist that you place your orders by that time to accommodate their shipping schedules.) Whenever you decide to deck the halls, be sure to gather inspiration from these 27 Holiday Decor Hacks So Genius You’ll Wish You Did Them.
Your tree can take a decade to grow.
The last thing your vendor wants to do is guilt you out of buying a tree, but did you know that your average six- to seven-foot Christmas tree grows for up to ten years before its month-long stint in your living room? That’s a decade-long battle with the elements, and a decade-long relationship with the tree farmer, who meticulously prunes and shears each tree until it reaches maturity. But all that effort isn’t for naught: For every live tree harvested, farmers re-plant an average of one to three new seedlings.
If they don’t re-cut, your tree won’t last long.
If you buy your tree and the vendor doesn’t re-cut the bottom upon sale, your Christmas tree seller is selling you short. The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) shares that without re-cutting, trees aren’t able to absorb all of the water they need—about a quart per day, on average—and will have a much shorter lifespan.
Having countless falling needles isn’t normal.
While Christmas tree shopping, you may notice that pretty much all trees shed pine needles as you lift or touch them. But there’s a big difference between the dead needles that fall from the middle of the tree (this is normal) and needles that fall from further out on the branches (this is not). Look for trees that don’t shed their needles when you run your hand along a branch from the trunk out. If you come up with a handful of needles, your tree has already started to dry out—and won’t last long.
You don’t need to add anything to the water.
Beware the Christmas tree vendor that tries to up-sell you on any hydration gels or powders to add to your Christmas tree stand. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, not only are these commercial options reportedly ineffective at retaining moisture, they can contain additives that are actually harmful to your tree’s health and longevity.
Instead, the Penn State College of Agricultural Science recommends sticking to regular tap water, and forgoing any sugars, floral preservatives, aspirin, molasses, or other DIY remedies for dry needles. And don’t wait until your tree dries out completely to call a wrap on the holiday season: This Is The Date When You Should Take Down Your Christmas Decorations.
That iconic cone shape isn’t natural.
Whether you’re team Douglas or team Fraser (fir, that is), everyone can all agree on a few things: the ideal tree is green and lustrous, with pines that form a perfect conic shape. But if you think that shape comes naturally, think again. According to How Stuff Works, beginning when a tree reaches between three and four feet tall, farmers begin a strategic shearing process that they must repeat every summer until maturity. Their pruning guides each sapling to conform to our ideal notion of a Christmas tree so that each customer feels they got the very best one.
Artificial trees can end your frustration with lights.
If untangling Christmas lights is the perennial bane of your existence each holiday season, you may be interested to learn that many artificial trees now come with built in lights—cord-free, evenly distributed, and ready to go. Though your Christmas tree seller would rather you do it the old fashioned way, you can find pre-lit faux-tree options from retailers National Tree Company, Balsam Hill, or a number of others on Amazon.
There are environmental costs.
Just because artificial trees have ranked worst on the scale of eco-consciousness doesn’t mean live trees come without an environmental cost. Though the PVC in fake trees yields high carbon emissions, most people that buy them put them to use year after year for up to a decade. If you instead buy 10 live trees over the course of that time—with a seven-year average growth time per tree—you will have used up 70 years’ worth of water and pesticides. Your best bet for a green Christmas? Buy your live tree from a local farm to reduce the carbon footprint associated with transportation. And for more ways to reduce your carbon footprint, here are 30 Easy Ways to Make Your Home More Eco-Friendly.
You should shop around.
It seems like every year for the past many holiday seasons we’ve heard about tree shortages that push the price of Christmas trees ever upward. But many Christmas tree vendors have capitalized on this trend and padded their prices beyond the true cost. It may seem cynical at such a sentimental time of year, but don’t be afraid to do some price comparisons to make sure you’re getting a fair deal. Then tip generously, because it’s the holidays after all, and nobody likes a Scrooge!
Work conditions can be rough.
If your Christmas tree seller isn’t the complaining-to-customers type, they probably won’t tell you all the hard work that goes into the selling season. It’s not all Christmas jingles and hot cocoa, especially in major cities. Oftentimes, vendors come hundreds of miles from home only to sleep in campers, trucks, hostels, or at their shop stalls for a month or more. On top of the less than luxurious living arrangements, the work itself can be grueling. Sellers spend hours on end in the cold, lifting, bundling, and sometimes even delivering heavy trees. One family-owned business reported to Business Insider that each person takes only a four hour break each night to rest, and makes an average of $14 per hour for their efforts.
Christmas trees can be dangerous.
Okay, so your odds of a tree fire have dipped significantly since the days when we use to precariously balance lit candles on the branches, but Christmas trees still pose some dangers today. According to CBS News, 45 percent of people don’t water their Christmas trees daily, despite 70 percent knowing they’re supposed to, and these dry trees are far more likely to catch fire from a nearby candle on a mantle or faulty Christmas light wiring. Keep your home safe by keeping all live flames far away, hydrating your tree regularly, and discarding it before it becomes overly dry. And while you’re considering your safety, This Is the Most Dangerous Day of the Year to Drive.
Black Friday tree “sales” aren’t really cheaper.
According to Market Watch, people who buy trees on Black Friday spend the most, with an average spending of $66 per tree on that date. If, on the other hand, you don’t mind waiting until Christmas Eve to deck the halls, you could spend something closer to that day’s average of $30. Roughly 90 percent of trees are sold by the end of the second weekend in December, so for a happy medium, try visiting your vendor on a Tuesday or Wednesday after then when business is slower and the best deals are on offer.
The industry isn’t as quaint as you think.
Sure, a lot of Christmas tree farms are family-run, but that doesn’t mean they’re not part of a booming, big business industry. Christmas tree farms employ roughly 100,000 people across all 50 states, selling between 25 and 30 million trees, and creating a $2 billion dollar live tree industry in America.
Bigger isn’t necessarily better.
Getting a big tree can set a very merry tone for the holiday, and if you’ve got the space, go to town! Your Christmas tree vendor will probably be more than happy to sell you the biggest tree they can. But remember, you need to take into account nearly an extra foot for your tree stand, space for any tree-top ornament or star, and at least six inches of headroom—if not more—between your top ornament and the ceiling. Also keep in mind that as your tree settles after unbundling it in your home, the branches will fall into a wider stance. Think first about your space, and then about what tree might compliment it, not the other way around!
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