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Which Christmas tree this year?

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For most families having a Christmas tree is one of the basics of the Christmas season.  

royal treePutting an evergreen tree in your home and decorating it can be traced right back to 1605 when German families would “set up fir trees in the palours…and hang thereon roses cut out of many-coloured paper, apples, wafers, gold-foil, sweets, etc.” according to an anonymous writer in Strasburg, Germany.

In the UK it is known that Queen Victoria and prince Albert brought one into their home in 1840, but before this Queen Charlotte is said to have started the royal tradition by bringing the evergreen fir into her home whereby she would decorate it with candles and sweets.

According to History Today, Christmas trees then became all the rage, especially in upper-class circles where they often formed a central part of the festive social gatherings.

One tradition has it that Martin Luther was walking home late one evening and was struck by the starlight piercing through the fir trees.  His enthusiasm to share this experience with his family led him to place a small candle on the branches to symbolise his view of the Christmas sky.

The people of Oslo, Norway, continue a tradition that started in 1947 when they donated a Christmas tree to the City of Westminster, England.  The genuine expression of friendship was in gratitude for Britain´s help to Norway in World War II.

christmas tree decoratedToday 98% of fir trees are grown for the festive period and the Nordmann Fir is considered to be the leader among the festive evergreen trees.

However, the growth in artificial trees, made from PVC plastic, have created a discussion around whether they are no longer environmentally friendly.  The debate centres around the re-using of the plastic tree as opposed to growing a tree, cutting it down and then disposing of it after Christmas.

The Independent, quotes the Carbon Trust, in saying that real Christmas trees have a much lower carbon footprint compared to the plastic imitation, if disposed of in a sensible manner.  The fake tree has a carbon footprint 10 times the size of the fir unless they can be used for more than 10 years.

Emi Murphy, campaigner at Friends of the Earth suggests that “if you´ve got a fake tree already, keep using it and make it last as long as possible”, in an interview The Independent.

There are more options today for buying fir trees in pots, where you can transfer it to the garden during the year and then bring it back in at Christmas.

Whatever side of the debate you are on, we suggest you take great care with Christmas trees as every 52 reported home fires during the Christmas season are attributed to a fire from a tree.

Duncan Dyason

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