By Amber Hester Kuehn
History of Christmas trees:
Christmas trees as we know them today can be traced back to Christians in 16thcentury Germany. During this era, Martin Luther, a protestant priest, inspired by stars shining through the trees, wired candles to branches of his tree to replicate the moment. Inspiration through nature – I get that. It wasn’t until the 1800s that Christmas trees appeared on this side of the Atlantic – German immigrants in Pennsylvania decorated small trees with apples, cookies, popcorn, berries and nuts. However, Christmas trees were still regarded as pagan and did not gain in popularity until the very trendy Queen Victoria and Prince Albert put one in their palace in 1846 for all the world to see, illustrated in the London News. The decorated Christmas tree would become Americanized for years to come. Food decorating small trees became floor to ceiling trees with handmade ornaments, and candles gave way to electric lights.
- It takes about seven years for a tree to mature to the average Christmas tree size (six-seven feet).
- About 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States each year and 350 million are currently growing on Christmas tree farms that exist in all 50 states!
- For every tree harvested, up to three seeds are planted to replace it.
The Misconception of Christmas trees:
President Theodore Roosevelt banned the use of natural trees in the White House in 1901 to enhance opposition of deforestation. In 1905, the U.S. Forest Service was established to protect millions of acres of national forests. I am very proud of this major conservation movement, but Christmas trees are harvested from Christmas tree FARMS. They are planted with the intent to harvest and they are replanted constantly. This is not deforestation! I bet you thought I was going to say something else.
Natural trees are a renewable resource and can be recycled. In other words, it does not end up in a dump for 10 years attempting to biodegrade. I used to think that a fake tree would save the environment, and this may be true if you kept the same fake tree forever and passed it down as a family heirloom. However they, especially with the pre-lit trees, last about three years max.
Every time you “get rid of” your fake tree, manufactured in China (85%), you are contributing PVC (polyvinyl chloride) to landfills. After about nine years, lead (stabilizer) may leach from the chemical compound. Fake trees became popular as advertised to be fire retardant, but they are not fire resistant. Recycling fake trees? Recycling PVC is cost prohibitive. It can be done, but municipalities are not going to be able to support it. Maybe this a business idea for the Don Ryan Center for Innovation?
Production of Christmas trees:
Shipping fake trees from manufacturing plants in China is no short trip. The fossil fuel consumed may cause more damage to the environment than taking the natural tree in the first place. Visualizing the working conditions does not get me into the Christmas spirit, and I’m pretty sure elves aren’t joyfully dancing while busying themselves producing Christmas decorations.
Christmas trees options in the South:
- White Pine is a dense, full tree that has soft, blue green needles. This tree has a pleasant pine scent and decorates well with light weight ornaments.
- Virginia Pine is native to the south and one of the most widely grown Christmas Trees. It has short needles, dense foliage, and a pleasant pine scent. Its strong branches make it an excellent choice for hanging heavy ornaments.
- Carolina Sapphire is a new species developed for Christmas trees. Their foliage are blue green in color, soft to the touch, and very dense with an outstanding aroma. Due to their tendency to dry out even in water stands, it is recommended not cutting these trees until three to four weeks before Christmas.
- Fraser Fir has strong branches, blue green foliage, and a wonderful aroma. Because they require cool summer weather and higher altitudes, they do not grow in South Carolina. However, many farms carry pre-cut Fraser Fir for families who want to enjoy the tree selection in a farm atmosphere.
- Leyland Cypress is one of the most popular trees grown in the South for Christmas trees. This tree drops very few needles and with proper care, will easily stay dress throughout the entire Christmas season. In addition to being a beautiful tree with soft foliage. It is grown from cuttings and does not produce pollen; therefore enabling many asthma suffered to enjoy a real tree in their home.
There are several Christmas tree farms in South Carolina and the closest one is in Okatie! At A&A Christmas Tree Farm you can cut your own Leyland Cypress or White Pine. You can also purchase a Fraser Fir, hailing from North Carolina. Hilton Head Island High School is conducting its annual Christmas Tree Sale, featuring freshly cut Fraser Firs from Sugar Mountain Farms, N.C. The trees are cut just before delivery and kept in water. The tree lot, which benefits the Hilton Head High Seahawks, is located at the school’s softball field on Wilborn Road, across from the Island Rec Center. The seasonal fundraiser has generated more than $60,000 for the school’s athletics department. Trees are on sale every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., while supplies last.
Remember, the Lowcountry has a temperate climate and most evergreens prefer a colder climate, so if you want your tree to last longer, purchase a palmetto tree, decorate it and have a Pluff Mud Christmas! Whatever floats your boat!
Just know that by buying a live tree, you’re making a decision that will conserve the environment, which should be a theme in our lives. Natural beauty is a gift from God to show his love, but His ultimate gift is celebrated at Christmas – a savior that is more beautiful than we can imagine.