Some old Christmas traditions are working their way back into our lives this holiday season.
Amid a tumultuous year, people are looking for ways to inject some extra joy into their homes right now, and that — along with the inability to see family members — is resulting in high levels of live Christmas tree purchases.
Indications are that this isn’t just an American trend either. Sales are up around the globe, which makes a case that the pandemic is the driving factor behind demand. While official national data won’t be completely available until early next year, according to the research firm Evercore ISI, tree sales are up almost 30% so far this year.
“We’ve had an uptick in real tree sales for sure,” says Doug Hundley, a spokesperson for the National Christmas Tree Association. “More people are staying home, so more people need trees.”
While prior to Thanksgiving, there was uncertainty about trips to tree lots for the normal post-holiday rush amid a time of health scares, many new precautionary steps by lots and farms seemed to help alleviate those concerns.
Unfortunately, many consumers are finding empty lots during their shopping trips. Hundley explains that higher demand this season, coupled with the cyclical nature of the business, are causing some shortages. However, future Christmas tree shoppers shouldn’t be turned off as it is only a short-term issue and lots should be stocked the next few years.
“If you go back to 2008 to around 2015, we had too many trees,” Hundley explains. “Now we are in another market with a tighter supply. Ten years ago, Christmas tree farmers had full fields and couldn’t sell them all. When you’re growing a crop that takes seven to 10 years to harvest, can you imagine how to gauge planning for that? It’s really a niche market.”
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For many people, the pandemic means less travel and smaller, perhaps masked and distanced, gatherings.
This summer, the organization TRUE Global Intelligence fielded a survey of 2,019 Americans adults about how they would like to spend their money this holiday season. More than half of the respondents stated that they desired memories of shared experiences rather than gifts. Toward that end, they stated that they thought of purchasing a real tree as an “experience” as opposed to just purchasing a “product”. According to the survey, among those likely to celebrate in a different place or way this year, 39% report the change makes them more likely to buy a real tree.
In fact, 92% of the surveyed expected Christmas to be different this year, with 91% of those folks believe it will be different in a good way.
Those who are now picking up the tradition of celebrating with live trees are continuing a tradition which as been around for millennia. Ever since the times of the ancients, humans have been making a tradition of decorating their trees. Back during Roman winter festivals, the population decorated trees with small pieces of metal during Saturnalia, a winter festival in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture. Egyptians celebrated their solstice by filling their homes with green palm rushes in honor of the god Ra, who had the head of a hawk and wore the sun as a crown.
The oldest record of a decorated Christmas tree came from a 1605 diary found in Strasburg, France which was adorned with paper roses, apples and candies.
“Nothing says ‘the holidays’ like picking out a real Christmas tree with your loved ones,” says Marsha Gray, Executive Director, Christmas Tree Promotion Board. “From the unmistakable fresh Christmas tree scent to the fun of the search, the experience of choosing a real tree is a tradition to look forward to every holiday season and remember for years to come.”
In fact, “keeping it real” by getting a real Christmas tree was cited as the top holiday activity which parents enjoyed when they were children, even ranking above activities such as taking photos with Santa, cookie swaps, visiting extended family or going to the movies.
“We feel like this is a turning point back to traditions,” says Hundley. “With a stressful year due to the coronavirus, people are ready to turn back the clock and find some security from old-time family traditions and a live tree is an image of that.”