The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Fun Facts About Christmas Trees

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

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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