Did you know that the Christmas tree was made in Alsace, that Danish genetic engineers develop the perfect Nordmann fir, and that the average Christmas tree has almost 200,000 needles?
Every year, fir trees create a festive atmosphere in the parlor. The evergreens have only become the focus of the festive season over time. Forerunners can be found in ancient cultures. Interesting facts about the Christmas tree.
1) Where was the Christmas tree invented?
Trees and branches of evergreen plants were already used in ancient times as symbols of health and vitality. With the Romans it was the laurel branch or wreath, the Teutons hung fir branches in the house to ward off evil spirits. The maypole and the erection tree when building a house also go back to this custom. The first real Christmas trees were verifiable to be found in the houses of noble citizens in the Alsatian Schlettstadt (today Sélestat) from 1521. In 1539 a Christmas tree was set up for the first time in Strasbourg Cathedral.
The first Christmas trees were usually decorated with apples, wafers, paper or straw stars, and sugar cookies and were allowed to be plundered by the children at Christmas. The year of birth of the Christmas tree candle is dated to 1611: At that time, Duchess Dorothea Sibylle of Silesia used it to decorate the first Christmas tree. Fir trees used to be rare in Central Europe and only affordable for the nobility and wealthy citizens. The common people contented themselves with single branches. Only after 1850, with the development of real forestry, were there enough fir and spruce forests to meet the increasing demand for Christmas trees.
Over 90 percent of Christmas trees no longer come from the forest but are grown in plantations by specialized horticultural companies
The church initially fought against the pagan Christmas tradition and the feeling of Christmas trees in the forest – not least because it owned extensive forest areas. The Protestant Church was the first to bless the Christmas tree and established it as a Christian Christmas custom – above all to differentiate itself from the Catholic custom of setting up a nativity scene. It was not until the end of the 19th century that the Christmas tree caught on in the Catholic regions of Germany.
2) Where do the Christmas trees come from?
The largest cultivation areas for Christmas trees in Germany are in Schleswig-Holstein and the Sauerland. However, the number one exporter of Christmas trees is Denmark. Most of the larger Nordmann firs that are sold in Germany come from Danish plantations. They grow particularly well in the mild coastal climate there with high humidity. Around 4,000 producers export around 10 million firs to 25 countries every year. The most important purchasing countries are Germany, England, and France. But Germany also exports around a million trees, mainly to Switzerland, France, Austria, and Poland.
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3) What kind of tree is best for a Christmas tree?
Not only good marketing brought the Nordmann fir first place on the popularity scale. The species of fir from the Caucasus has various favorable properties: it grows relatively quickly, has a beautiful dark green hue, a very symmetrical crown structure, and has soft, long-lasting needles. The silver fir (Abies Procera) and the Korean fir (Abies koreana) also have these advantages, but grow more slowly and are therefore considerably more expensive. The spruce is an inexpensive alternative to the fir, but you have to accept a few disadvantages: The red spruce (Picea abies) has very short needles that dry out quickly and fall off in a heated room. Their crown is not as regular as that of the fir trees. The needles of the spruce (Picea pungens) or blue spruce (Picea pungens ‘Glauca’) are – as the name suggests – very hard and pointed so that it is really no fun to prepare the trees for the living room. On the other hand, they have a more symmetrical growth and do not need as many needles.
The Nordmann fir (Abies nordmanniana) is by far the most popular Christmas tree
By the way, researchers at the Botanical Institute in Copenhagen have already bred and cloned the first “super fir trees”. These are Nordmann firs with a particularly high proportion of water to reduce the risk of fire. In addition, they grow very evenly, which should reduce the high reject rate in the plantations. The next goal of the scientists: They want to smuggle a gene from the snowdrop, which enables the production of an insect-repellent toxin, into the genome of the Nordmann fir. This is also intended to increase their resistance to pests.
4) How many needles does a Christmas tree have?
Even this curious question has now been answered: On November 25, 2006, several school classes started counting the needles of a 1.63 meter high Nordmann fir on the TV show “Ask the Mouse”. The result: 187,333 pieces.
5) How does the Christmas tree stay fresh as long as possible?
After buying the tree, store it in a shady place outdoors for as long as possible and only bring it indoors just before Christmas Eve. It is often recommended that the Christmas tree stand should always be filled with sufficient water. This in no way harms the tree and at the same time increases the stability, but – as experience has shown – has no notable influence on the durability of the Christmas tree. When setting up the Christmas tree, it is more important to choose the right location: it will last longest in a bright, not too sunny place. Also, make sure that the room temperature is not too high, because the warmer it is, the faster the tree will lose its needles. Spraying hairspray on spruce trees will keep their needles fresher longer and won’t fall off as quickly. However, this chemical treatment also increases the risk of fire!
Water in the Christmas tree stand increases the stability but does not have a major impact on the durability of the tree
6) How do you get the sticky resin off your fingers?
Spruce trees in particular produce a lot of resin that can hardly be washed off your hands with soap. The best way to get rid of the sticky mass is to rub your hands with plenty of hand cream and then wipe them with an old cloth.
7) How can you optically improve a light Christmas tree?
First, place the Christmas tree so that its chocolate side is facing forward. If the result is still not satisfactory, depending on the type of tree, add additional fir or spruce branches to the particularly dry places. Simply drill a hole in the trunk with the drill and insert a suitable branch into it. Very important: Position the drill so that the branch will later be at a natural angle to the trunk.
Four out of five households with more than two people put up a Christmas tree
8) How many Christmas trees are sold in Germany each year?
In 2015, 29.3 million Christmas trees worth almost 700 million euros were sold in Germany. Germans spent an average of 20 euros on a tree. With around 80 percent market share, the Nordmann fir (Abies nordmanniana) is the most popular. 40,000 hectares of cultivation area alone (a square with a side length of 20 kilometers!) Are needed to meet the demand for Christmas trees in Germany. By the way: only two out of three trees are of good enough quality to be marketed.
9) How old is the average Christmas tree?
With intensive care and good fertilization, a Nordmann fir takes about ten to twelve years to reach a height of 1.80 meters. Spruces grow faster, but depending on the species, they also need at least seven years. Incidentally, the trees in most Danish plantations are fertilized purely biologically with chicken manure. The use of herbicides is also low because the Danes rely on natural weed control: They let an old English domestic sheep breed, the Shropshire sheep, graze in the plantations. In contrast to most other sheep breeds, the animals do not touch the young pine buds.
10) How many Christmas tree fires are there annually in Germany?
The fire brigades are on high alert during Advent and Christmas. For good reason: the annual statistics show 15,000 small and large fires, from Advent wreaths to Christmas trees. Pine needles in particular contain a lot of resin and essential oils. The candle flames set them on fire almost explosively, especially when the tree or wreath dry out more and more at the end of the holidays.
Burning candles on the Christmas tree should never be left unattended
In the event of an emergency, do not hesitate to extinguish a room fire with plenty of water – as a rule, household contents insurance not only pays for fire damage, but also for damage caused by extinguishing water. However, if gross negligence is suspected, the courts often have to decide. If you want to be on the safe side, use electric fairy lights – even if it’s not that atmospheric.