Real Christmas trees spark new demand amid the pandemic: 'It just brings more joy to the season'

Erin Donnelly
·4 min read
The National Christmas Tree Association credits growing demand for real Christmas trees to the pandemic. (Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)
The National Christmas Tree Association credits growing demand for real Christmas trees to the pandemic. (Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Welcome to 2020, the year that’s given us Christmas decorations in March, visits with Santa Claus over Zoom and a pivot to virtual holiday shopping experiences in lieu of the usual Black Friday crush and shopping mall sprees. But when it comes to Christmas trees, only the real deal will do.

Having already ushered in a wave of DIY projects as folks remain house-bound, the pandemic now has many quite literally sprucing up their homes this holiday season, eschewing plastic, artificial trees in favor of fresh-cut firs.

Doug Hundley, a spokesperson for the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA)— which represents more than 700 active member farms, 29 state and regional associations and more than 4,000 affiliated businesses within the Christmas tree industry — tells Yahoo Life that there’s “definitely been an uptick in sales on real Christmas trees” this year. It’s a trend that he calls a “COVID response,” noting the way the pandemic has disrupted people’s lives, including their holiday plans.

“There’s more people celebrating Christmas maybe in their own homes rather than coming together, so they need more trees,” he points out.

A real, fragrant tree — one that’s been hand-picked from a tree farm or stall, and “brings the outside in” — has a more homey appeal than a store-bought fake version, especially when people are desperate for comforting traditions, Hundley says.

“A stressful year like this one may be pulling people back towards more traditional ways of doing things,” he suggests.

“We like to think that the real Christmas trees have got a lot to offer at times like this,” he adds. “It just brings more joy to the season at a time when people need that as much as possible.”

Mr. Jingles Christmas Trees, which sells fresh trees online and at 10 locations scattered across the United States, has seen a similar boost. A spokesperson tells Yahoo Life that owners Brandon Helfer and Scott Sanchez experienced an early sales rush this year, going through multiple shipments in the first couple of weeks of business since opening on Nov. 26.

That too is attributed to the pandemic, as “people are trying to get into the Christmas spirit early as well as looking for something to do.”

Hundley notes that, just as visiting pumpkin patches proved to be a popular pandemic activity this fall, Christmas tree farms are also especially alluring thanks to their large outdoor environment that makes social distancing simple.

“We knew that Christmas trees would fit right into that pattern of wanting to do something outdoors,” he says, adding that the NCTA developed guidance on COVID-safe practices for lots and farms to follow. “Instead of buying a pumpkin in a grocery store this year, people said, ‘Well, let’s make an afternoon of it.’ And it’s the same way with Christmas trees.

“Choose-and-cut farms are a wonderful experience, especially if you’ve got kids and everybody’s been cooped up in the house too much this year.”

Hundley downplays reports that the wildfires out West resulted in a low tree supply this year, saying that while the “tragic” fires would have affected a few farms, from a “national perspective” that wouldn’t have significantly impacted national supply. And while some tree lot vendors may have opted to not open up this holiday season because of the pandemic, that too wouldn’t have resulted in a major shortage, explaining that such lots have “been on the decline for a number of years.”

If shoppers are struggling to get their hands on a fresh-cut tree right now, it’s likely due to timing. According to Hundley, most trees are sold in the four weekends following Thanksgiving and therefore the industry is “usually down to about the last 5 percent of people who would be looking for a tree now.”

He adds, “Most people have their trees, so it’s very common when you get about 10 days from Christmas that many tree lots will be empty. That’s perfectly normal.”

Hundley himself sets up his own tree shortly after Thanksgiving. With proper care — buying a fresh tree, getting a fresh cut before putting it in a water-filled stand and not letting the bottom get exposed to air — a real tree can last four or five weeks. That’s more maintenance than a store-bought spruce might require, but he’s “confident” that the renewed interest in real versions will carry on for Christmases to come.

“People may have changed from real trees to fake trees at some point in the past, when times were a bit too busy,” he says. “In a way, a silver lining from COVID has been that people have had more time to think about the quality of their life, rather than the speed of it. Real trees satisfy that need for quality right now.”

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