Not since the Great Thanksgiving Cranberry Scare of 1959 (previously posted by Mister B), have boomers faced a holiday staple shortage like what is expected this season — and for the next few years — with real Christmas trees. The causes for this shortage are varied by region, but are mostly due to the economic climate 8 to 10 years ago; experts predict overall that prices may rise by ten percent. In some areas, shortages will be made up by importing more trees from Canada or by early cutting by some growers.
The market for real trees began dropping after the boomer years, due to the proliferation of aluminum and artificial trees (previously by Mister B: Visions of Aluminum Trees Danced Through Boomers’ Heads). One might assume that as time has passed, the two generations since the Boomer Generation would prefer artificial trees for their convenience and, in recent years, life-like appearance. While that assumption is mostly correct, the market for real trees perked up and leveled off as boomers had families of their own. Some say it was pure nostalgia, while others actually attribute it to the annual airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas.
In the early 2000s, there was a glut of the supply of trees, and then the Great Recession of 2008 entered the picture. As growers reduced the number of plantings to adjust for the drop in sales, a triple whammy of seedling shortages, drought and wildfires hit across several states that grow the majority of trees in the country. It takes approximately 10 to 15 years for a tree to grow to the average height of six to seven feet to be ready for harvesting. Drought and wildfires can delay or eliminate an entire crop for a decade or more. Add an increase in diesel fuel prices over last year and we are faced with this year’s circumstances.
Growers say shortages may be spotty, since Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states and Canada. A shift to other types of trees may also help adjust for shortages in some areas. The top five types of trees sold for Christmas are Balsam Fir, Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Noble Fir and Scotch Pine. An expected 25 to 35 million trees from Christmas tree farms will be sold this year.
Mister Boomer’s family did not own an artificial tree of any kind during his years in the family residence. His father saw the hunt for the perfect tree as an annual challenge that was meant to be shared with his two sons. His sons were mostly cold and tired of drifting from lot to lot, only to get back into the car when prices weren’t negotiable or selection not to Mister Boomer’s father’s expectations.
Mister B’s dad, like most people of the time, preferred Scotch Pine. The type is known for its perfect Christmas tree shape and sturdy branches that hold up to family heirloom ornaments. For many years Mister Boomer wanted his family to try Fraser Fir. The shorter needles and bluish tinge were appealing to his burgeoning design style, and besides, since he regularly watered the tree and vacuumed up fallen needles, the Fraser was practically maintenance-free compared to the other types. Nonetheless, his father almost always chose Scotch Pine or Douglas Fir.
When it comes to nostalgia, Mister B is feeling it. The natural aroma alone of waking up and smelling the pine scent of the tree is a memory that will never be triggered from any pine-scented air freshener for him. After speaking with many boomers of various ages, he discovered that it was practically universal for us to, at some point, lie down under the tree and stare up through the branches, enthralled by the scent and mesmerized by the colors glowing from the branches. Now that’s a boomer memory brought to you by the growers of real trees!
Mister Boomer has always been conflicted when it came to real Christmas trees. The philosophical duality for him were weighing the incredible experience of living with natural trees in the home against the violent act of cutting these things of beauty from their outdoor surroundings, gussying them up for a few weeks with lights and decorations, then unceremoniously discarding them after New Year’s (Three Kings Day in Mister Boomer’s house). As Mister Boomer’s awareness grew with the Environmental Movement of the 1970s, he decided that he comes down on the side of real versus artificial. Real trees are a renewable resource, provide habitat for wildlife, put oxygen into the air and Christmas tree farms plant one to three seedlings for every tree that is cut. More communities are sponsoring recycling events for trees after the holidays, too. Now trees are not simply left to decompose in landfills (naturally, of course), but are chopped into mulch that is used in city, community and personal gardens from coast to coast. These are the gifts that real trees give us. As far as Mister Boomer is concerned, the memories of Christmas Past would not be complete without the search for the tree, decorating it and enjoying its presence for a few short weeks.
Christmas comes along once a year; isn’t it worth a few extra dollars or a couple of hours of searching to give your family the memories that we had as young boomers? From Mister Boomer, may your trees be real and bright, and may all your shortages be light.
Did your family prefer real over artificial trees, boomers? How do you feel about the Great Tree Debate today? Will a shortage of real trees affect your purchase this year?