The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Fun Facts About Christmas Trees

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture

As people are hustling and bustling through the holly day season, probably few take a moment to marvel over the history and life of a Christmas tree. Our Christmas Trees and Morewebsite offers these intriguing factoids. Be sure to keep these handy for small talk at your next party.

  • The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531.

  • The decorated Christmas tree can be traced back to the ancient Romans who decorated trees with small pieces of metal during Saturnalia, a winter festival in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture.

  • Between 1887-1933 a fishing schooner called the "Christmas Ship" would tie up at the Clark Street bridge and sell spruce trees from Michigan to Chicagoans.

  • In 1963, the National Christmas Tree was not lighted until December 22 because of a national 30-day period of mourning following the assassination of President Kennedy.

  • In 1979, the National Christmas Tree was not lighted except for the top ornament. This was done in honor of the American hostages in Iran.

  • Oregon produces the most real Christmas trees at 8.6 million in 1998.

  • Michigan ranks fourth (four million trees in 1998) among all states in the production of real Christmas trees, but grows a larger variety (13) of Christmas trees than any other state.

  • There are over 500 Christmas tree growers in Illinois.

  • Growing Christmas trees provides a habitat for wildlife.

  • Recycled live trees have been used to make sand and soil erosion barriers, placed in ponds for fish shelter and make great winter protection for perennial flowers.

  • 59 percent of real Christmas trees harvested are recycled in community programs.

  • Most Christmas trees are cut weeks before they get to a retail outlet. To get a really fresh tree, check out a local tree farm.

  • Christmas trees take 7-10 years of managing insects and diseases, shearing and weathering all kinds of environmental problems to produce a saleable tree.

  • Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states including Hawaii and Alaska.

  • 98 percent of all Christmas trees are grown on farms.

  • More than 330,000 real Christmas trees are sold via e-commerce or catalogs.

  • On average, over 2,000 Christmas trees are planted per acre.

  • 2-3 seedlings are planted for every harvested Christmas tree.

  • 32.4 million families purchased a real tree in 1998.

  • You should never burn your Christmas tree in the fireplace. It can contribute to creosote buildup.

  • Other types of trees such as cherry and hawthorns were used as Christmas trees in the past.

  • Artificial trees will last for six years in your home, but for centuries in a landfill.

  • Using small candles to light a Christmas tree dates back to the middle of the17th century.

  • Thomas Edison's assistant, Edward Johnson, came up with the idea of electric lights for Christmas trees in 1882. Oh, if Ed could see them now!

  • Christmas tree lights were first mass produced in 1890.

  • What Christmas tree decoration did the government ban at one time? Tinsel originally contained lead, now it's made of plastic.

  • Keep you tree well watered. In the first week, a tree in your home will consume as much as a quart of water per day.

  • Real Christmas trees are involved in less than one-tenth of one percent of residential fires and only when ignited by some external ignition sources.

For a nice gift, check out our University of Illinois Extension garden calendar. Full of great pictures and seasonal tips for $10. Contact your local Extension office or our office at 333-7672.

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