Christmas tree-buying season ends, but work continues for farmers

Fraser fir is one of the most popular varieties of Christmas trees grown and sold in South Carolina. (Photo by Will Harmon)

Long since have the days passed when people would wander through the woods for hours on end searching for that perfect tree to decorate their homes over the Christmas season.

Nowadays, many people don’t even use the traditional real Christmas trees. Families and towns that once put up tall and mighty live Christmas trees have transitioned to more cost-effective, arguably safer, longer-lasting artificial trees.

There once was a time long, long ago when people would hike through the rugged wilderness for hour after painstaking hour, gazing up, up, and up looking for that perfect tree. With great effort, they would saw down that tree by hand. They would lug the tree to the family car and heave it onto the roof, where it was then haphazardly tied down.

After the journey home with the tree, a new struggle would begin to shove the evergreen through the door somehow — only to find that it was either too big or too small for the room.

Many people today choose to skip the wilderness adventure and buy artificial trees. They can be bought for the perfect size and shape for the family living room. There is very little mess to clean up as the Christmas season foes on. There is no cold weather to bear; you go to the attic or basement to get the tree. They last for years and do not require water.

Still, many families, towns, and cities cling to the time-honored tradition of a live Christmas tree. They say that the spirit of Christmas lives in having a real tree. Of course, the old- fashioned wilderness adventure of the past does not match the search for a real Christmas tree today, but the modern-day equivalent can instill the Christmas spirit.

It is a long-lasting Christmas tradition for many to take the family to a nearby Christmas tree farm to find that perfect tree.  For many, picking out the family Christmas tree is the hallmark of the Christmas season. Though much has changed over the years, finding the family Christmas tree brings us closer together in this most wonderful time of the year.

Today, scattered all over the country and of right here in South Carolina, there are Christmas tree farms that grow and sell the best Christmas trees that Mother Nature has to offer. Right here in South Carolina there are at least 40 Christmas tree farms.

Across the United States every year, nearly 30 million real Christmas trees are sold, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

Going back in time once more, people once would take most any kind of tree they could find. There are now at least 14 different varieties of Christmas trees grown across the U.S., with eight of those being grown right here in South Carolina.

The most popular tree varieties include Leyland cypress, Murray cypress, Carolina sapphire, Blue ice sapphire, Virginia pine, White pine, Eastern red cedar and several others, according to Tom Sawyer with the South Carolina Christmas Tree Association.

If you watch the news, you might have caught wind of an actual shortage of Christmas trees this year. This shortage applies mainly to Frasier firs, which have been one of the most popular Christmas trees, according to Mr. Sawyer. This shortage occurred mostly in North Carolina because of a recent economic downturn. During the recession of 2007-2009, Frasier firs were not planted in abundance as was the norm. Now here we are years later, and the trees that would have been ready for harvest this year were never planted because of a lack of funds and buyers a dozen years ago. Since then, the economy has slowly rebounded, so in future years there should be no shortage of Fraser firs.

Although there was a shortage of Fraser firs this year, there was no lack of other South Carolina-grown Christmas trees. According to the South Carolina Christmas Tree Association, it has been an exceptional season with nearly 95 percent of sales completed by the second week in December.

However short the season for selling trees, the Christmas festivities for many families stretch into the new year. They decorate the family Christmas tree, get started baking and cooking the annual favorites, and all the while gifts pile under the family Christmas tree.

As Christmas is upon us, we all gather around the family tree to remember the true meaning of Christmas and enjoy being together with our friends and family. Little ones wait anxiously for Santa to pop out of the chimney and fill their stockings and leave stacks of carefully wrapped presents under the family Christmas tree. By mid-January, though, it’s time for most folks to take down the tree and get on with the rest of the year.

As the Christmas season comes to an end, farmers are already making preparations for next year’s Christmas tree season.  Farms across the country are planting and nurturing more trees to be harvested for next year’s celebration.

As Christmas draws to a close and your family gathers around the tree one more time, just remember the Christ in Christmas and enjoy the time that we have to celebrate this holiday with those close to us.

May everyone – whether your tree was real or a not-so-real — have a very Merry Christmas!

Story by Will Harmon / Published December 26, 2019