Decking the halls in holiday style will cost a few more dollars this year, as the average price of a real Christmas Tree will rise to $81. That’s up from $78 in 2018, according to the National Christmas Tree Association (yes, there is such a thing.)
The average fake Christmas tree costs significantly more, at over $104 a tree, although some luxury model trees can go for as much as $700 this year. Buyers still love their fake trees, however, as 24 million units were sold in 2018, up 12% from the year before.
The association says that inventory on “live trees” is tighter this year, which has triggered a moderate bump-up in prices for holiday trees. Additionally, unseasonable weather in key evergreen tree states like Oregon and Michigan, along with fewer trees planted during and immediately after the Great Recession over a decade ago has also contributed to higher Christmas tree prices in 2019.
Prices for holiday trees have also doubled since 2008, when the average price of a tree stood at $36.50. Yet even as prices rise, holiday consumers are still digging deeper and buying trees. In 2018, consumers spent over $2 billion on 32.8 million Christmas trees.
Most buyers opt to get their trees at the big box home goods stores like Home Depot HD, Walmart (WMT) - Get Report and Lowes (LOW) - Get Report, with 28% getting their Christmas trees that way, according to the association. So-called “choose-and-cut” farms are the go-to option for another 28% of buyers, and 23% more go to a local lot to get their trees. One last eye-opening statistic – 2% buy their trees online at retail platforms like Amazon (AMZN) - Get Report and get them delivered right on their doorstep.
Tips on Buying Your Christmas Tree
When you do buy your tree, get the holiday greenery right by taking the following steps:
Get Your Larger Trees Earlier
While you can get smaller trees (6-7 feet) right up to Christmas Eve, it’s better to buy the taller trees, like 10-foot Douglas Fir or Fraser pines as early as possible, as they tend to go quickly.
Save Money By Waiting
While you may miss out on the larger trees by waiting, you can drive the price of your Christmas tree down to as low as $50 the longer you wait (that’s the price you’ll likely pay by purchasing your tree on Christmas Eve. Yes, buying a holiday tree on the day before Christmas may not be for everyone, but there is cash to be saved by procrastinating.
Cut the Trunk
For a healthier Christmas tree, cut an inch or so off the bottom of the trunk before setting it up in your home. Experts say this makes the tree more open to receiving and retaining water. Do this even if your tree provider cuts the trunk before you buy it on the lot or at a farm.
Keep Away From Heaters and Other Fire Risks
You’ll want to keep your Christmas tree well away from wall heaters, space heaters, stoves, fireplaces – even television sets. The risk there is that dry, tinder-like spruce needles can easily ignite when placed next to heat sources, and cause a fire in the home.
Christmas trees need water and lots of it to stay fresh. That means watering your holiday tree daily. Aim for a tree base container that can hold one gallon of water. Plain tap water is just fine as your water source – you don’t need to add anything to your tap water to keep your tree fresh.
A Brief History of the Christmas Tree
While ancient Egyptians and Northern European Druids use green trees to celebrate their own special holidays, the genesis of the Christmas Tree on Dec. 25 dates back to 16th-century Germany. Back then, evergreen trees were viewed by devout Christians as a magical symbol of the birth of Jesus Christ, and were brought into the home and decorated as lavishly as possible to commemorate the Christmas season.
Historian note that Martin Luther, the German monk and Protestant reform leader who led the split away from the Catholic church and toward the Protestant church in 1517, was one of the first religious leaders to add lights to holiday trees via lit candles – apparently he loved the way that lights “twinkled” on his Christmas tree, according to History.com. There’s no word on how Luther or any other holiday tree lover managed to keep lighted candles from burning the dry evergreen branches back in the 1600s.
Word of magical lighted Christmas trees finally drifted west to America in the 1840s when German settlers in Pennsylvania first erected Christmas trees, overcoming the reputation of holiday trees as Pagan symbols espoused by early American religious leaders. Back in the 1700s, New England Puritans made it a crime to use any decorations that would distract from the sacred meaning of Christmas, and that outlook took hold until Northern European settlers, like the Pennsylvania Germans, began decorating their homes with trees and wreaths around the Christmas holidays.
The idea caught on both here in the U.S. and in the United Kingdom, where Queen Victoria was sketched with her family around their Christmas tree in 1846. The picture became a national sensation, cementing the notion that Christmas could and should be celebrated with a vibrant, well-lit Christmas tree inside the home. Soon trees popped up all over the U.K. and America, adorned with cookies, berries, popcorn and apples, along with homes-styled ornaments made of paper and wood – signifying the first Christmas tree ornaments.
By the start of the 20th century, when electricity began appearing in American homes, Christmas trees began to be adorned with a primitive version of the holiday lights people use today. The first Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree locked down the tree as a worldwide Christmas symbol, in true American “bigger is better” style, when it was first erected in Manhattan in 1931.
The Takeaway on Christmas Trees in 2019
Given the fact that it’s mid-December, and Dec. 25 is right around the corner, there’s really no reason to overpay for your holiday Christmas tree.
Hit your local lot or farm with a negotiation mindset, and make sure to ask if the sellers can discount the tree given that Christmas is drawing so close.
Do that, and you’ll get a great price on a tree, and can take it home with plenty of time to decorate it to your unique taste before the holidays.