By Jim Poling. Sr.
It’s time to hike out to the shed and fetch the artificial Christmas tree.
It is not a huge task. Wrestle the box off the top shelf, pull out the three tree sections, snap them together, straighten the stand legs and stick the tree in a corner. The lights are built into the tree so you just plug the cord into a wall socket, add some Christmassy decorations, toss on some tinsel, and voila! All done.
But I’ve been thinking that maybe that’s not such a good idea this year. Memories of Christmases past keep whispering in my head.
They remind me of joyous Christmas moments from the past. Those years when we went into the bush with Dad to select and cut the world’s best Christmas tree. The fun of dragging it home, setting it up, then placing every coloured ball, and each piece of tinsel, carefully and affectionately.
And, in later years, following many of the same family traditions with our own children.
More people are leaving their artificial trees in storage this year. They are opting for real trees, in many cases because they are seeking some normalcy in a year that has been completely abnormal.
The Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association says it expects this year to set a record for sales. Many Canadian Christmas tree lots have sold out and exports of real trees to the U.S. are soaring.
I decided some years back not to cut any more live Christmas trees because of environmental concerns. I’m wondering now if those concerns are well-founded.
Like most artificial trees, ours is mainly plastic. The needles are plastic, as are many of the connecting parts. The electrical wires are plastic as is the star that tops the tree.
I’ve concluded that by deciding on an artificial tree I traded one set of environmental concerns for another.
There is too much plastic in our world. It is everywhere, including places it should not be – roadside ditches, city streets, lake shorelines and oceans. Plastics take centuries to deteriorate. Some never do.
Real Christmas trees disappear soon after Christmas. Many municipalities have Christmas tree recycling programs in which the trees are ground into mulch that is added to gardens to lock in moisture, suppress weeds and feed the soil.
Live trees suck up carbon dioxide belched into the atmosphere by human use of fossil fuels. They are pollution filters that researchers say can remove up to 13 tons of airborne pollutants per acre per year.
And, they release oxygen year round – especially the young hungry and fast-growing evergreens – because they do not shed their needles, which are food-producing factories.
Growing Christmas trees for sale is also a boost for the agriculture industry. Statistics Canada reports that the value of farm cash receipts for Christmas trees in 2017 was $91.2 million.
Also, when you get a tree from a Christmas tree lot you expect that tree is going to be replaced. Tree farmers must replace trees that are cut and sold if they expect to stay in business in future years.
A tree farm sapling takes eight to 10 years before it is ready for market, so it’s a business in which the operator must think ahead.
Perhaps all of us should adopt such forward thinking. What if those of us who follow the Christmas tree tradition planted one replacement tree every year as a sign of renewed life?
All trees, but evergreens in particular, are a sign of continuing life. Ancient civilizations hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows during bleak winter times. The ancient Egyptians brought green palm branches into their homes in late December as a sign of life.
Some Christmas tree traditions and customs have been borrowed from different people from different lands. The first Christmas tree in Canada is believed have been introduced by Baron Friederick von Riedesel, a German immigrant to Quebec in the late 1700s.
Originally the Christmas tree was the traditional centrepiece of the season celebrating the birth of Christ. It has expanded to become a symbol of freshness, renewed life, hope and faith.
That’s a much-needed, much-appreciated gift in 2020, a year of loss and sadness.