The Enduring Popularity Of Christmas Trees:

Have you bought your Christmas tree yet? If not, you’ve still got plenty of time to acquire one and decorate it. The Guardian estimated on December 8th that there will be around eight million of them on sale around the UK this year, so it won’t be difficult to find one even if you leave it until the last moment. Most of them have been grown on the 320 tree farms belonging to the members of the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA) which – as in the past 20 years – supplied the 6.70 metre tree switched on outside the Prime Minister’s official residence at 10 Downing Street on 6th December.

The 20 metre tree inaugurated that same evening in Trafalgar Square by the Mayors of Westminster and Oslo, however, originated from the forests surrounding the Norwegian capital, was transported by sea to Immingham in North-East Lincolnshire and then brought to London by road. As the London Evening Standard noted, it’s a tradition which dates back to 1947 and is a symbol of Norway’s gratitude for Britain’s support during the 2nd World War. It will remain there as a focal point for both Londoners and tourists until January 5th, when it will be taken down and recycled.

There’s rather less enthusiasm, though, in parts of the country, for the Christmas trees provided by some municipal authorities. The Evening Standard journalist, Ben Morgan, reported on December 3 that the “puny spruce” put up in St James’s Square, Muswell Hill, North London, is so tiny that “it barely peeps over the wooden fence that surrounds it, prompting ridicule on social media”. Rebecca Rowland, a resident in Tyldesley, Greater Manchester, quoted by the Sun columnist Jon Rogers on November 23, believes that the title of “ The Worst UK Christmas Tree 2018” applies more to her own local council’s “half-dead, forlorn looking conifer, sparsely adorned with only a few baubles”, a photo of which she has posted on Twitter. The Council acknowledged that it had not yet been properly decorated but insisted that it is a “living tree” which still has to grow.

Meanwhile, inhabitants of Scartho, North-East Lincolnshire, according to Roger’s colleague, Annabel Murphy on November 27, have described as a disgrace the “pathetic, three-foot tree with just a few bright lights and a tin foil star on top” that has been set up on a roundabout at the edge of the town. On December 6, Gemma Mullin, another Sun correspondent , highlighted the criticism of the Christmas tree installed in Birkenhead, Merseyside, which was being mocked by shoppers as “appalling” and as looking like “a bit of scaffolding” due to its hollow, cone-shaped metal frame. Many councils have attributed their lower expenditure on Christmas trees and accompanying celebrations to the cuts in local authority budgets imposed by the UK Government since the financial crash in 2008 , which have reputedly resulted in local services being slashed by almost 24% in England, 12% in Wales and 11.5% in Scotland.

So, if you are going to get a Christmas tree, what type should you choose? The BCTGA is adamant that real trees help protect the environment and have a much lower “carbon footprint” than artificial ones, most of which are imported from China. It cites Carbon Trust assertions that a real pine or fire tree naturally absorbs C02 and releases oxygen, whereas “if you have an artificial tree at home, you’ll need to re-use it for at least 10 Christmases to keep its environmental impact lower than that of a real tree”.

Nowadays, 80% of Christmas trees sold in Britain are of the “Nordmann Fir” dark-green foliage variety, mainly because they have better “needle retention” than the previously more popular, tidy, pyramid-shaped “Norway Spruce” alternative, which retains 10%-15% of the remaining market share. BCTGA’s advises avoiding the “roadside cowboys who are giving the public a bad deal”. You’ll know if a tree is fresh because it will have a healthy green appearance with few browning needles: “ Run your hand through a branch, then raise the tree a few inches off the ground and drop it on the butt end. Very few green needles should drop off”.

The Daily Telegraph has pointed out that, in the opinion of the experts, trees which are sold with nets on are less likely to last as long. That’s because the net strains the branches, causing the tree to dehydrate sooner and can also be used to conceal imperfections – so you should select one which is loose and is only netted when you are ready to take it home. Furthermore, remember that the stand you’ll require will add 15 cm to a tree that’s already between 1.82 – 2.13 metres high.

What should you do with your tree after 5th January? Most boroughs publish on their websites the various locations where you can take it for recycling and composting. The other option is to leave it outside for the rubbish collectors – but it mustn’t obstruct the pavement and you should first remove all decorations, pots and nets.

Filed under: Society | Posted on December 10th, 2018 by Colin D Gordon

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