The real Christmas Tree – A ‘Must Have’ not !

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Within two weeks, the world would go in a frenzy to celebrate Christmas.

The fever is already on with shops battling the eager shoppers and families making way for the festivities preparations. I do not fall short of it too. But I would have to admit that I have not hit the shops yet and Christmas for me has always been against the norm. First of all, I have never had a Chritsmas tree. It was against the family’s rule to fell a living tree for the enjoyment of a few days. Hence, it was taboo. But now with ethical living being the big thing, I can fully understand my Mum’s concern and stand on the matter years on. I have embraced her thinking and gladly living it with my better half who is the staunchest believer in environmental protection.

Christmas has been a time where the tradition has been to find the most creative way to decorate a twig or any object to give it to its festive mood. This tradition still lives on and each year, we are on the look out for some ideas to make it different. I should admit though, a twig has been the best find for us. It is enthralling to bring back to life a dead piece of wood and see it decked with pretty baubbles and garlands. Sometimes, we set it as the centrepiece of our Christmas table when we are not in a place where huddling by the warm glow of the fireplace is the first choice. Like when we are in a tropical place. The themes change each time, from simple and pure white to basic neutrals and classic colours. The end results are always satisfying and more so, when after a few days we do have have to join the bandwagon of disposal of dead and unwanted Christmas trees. It is a sad sight. Nothing is more beautiful than looking at a living tree within its natural environment. We can always take that much needed walk  in the outdoors after all that eating during the Christmas lunch and celebrate the beauty of nature at this time of the year. It will help our waisline and the animals would be happy !

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This year too, I have been googling to find some ideas of our ‘Christmas’ tree. And I came upon this nice article of Leo Hickman in The Guardian.

It’s at this point each December where I begin to feel as if I’m being haunted by the ghost of Christmas dilemmas past. Every year most of us go through the ritual of worrying about which Christmas tree to buy, or indeed whether to buy one at all.

Aren’t they just a colossal waste of money? Can such a decadent waste of resources be justified in our (supposedly) eco-aware times? (Such cries have been heard for centuries – Oliver Cromwell banged on about the “heathen tradition” of decorated trees, but he had his own all-together-different reasons.)

And then we buckle and relent as the children at our feet whimper and plead with us to get one. So what are the options for those of us who still want to follow this once-pagan yuletide tradition?

Buy a real tree

This is still considered the only true option by most tradition-loving followers of Proper Christmas. There’s something magical, they say, about the aroma of those pine needles and the presence of a just-felled, real tree in their home. Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without one.

The reality is a little less romantic: the vast majority of the trees we buy from garden centres and garage forecourts are intensively farmed on an industrial scale, sometimes beyond these shores.

As with most monocrops, Christmas trees are typically sprayed with potent fertilisers and herbicides such as Monsanto’s Roundup (glyphosate). Just how much Christmas cheer does that spread to local biodiversity and the seasonal workers hired to harvest the trees? Erase from your head any idyllic notion that these trees are carefully scythed from a snow-laden forest floor ready for your home.

In many ways, though, this is a positive. If Christmas trees were gathered this way they would be responsible for deforestation on an epic scale considering that we get through millions of things each year. They also offer some farmers a profitable harvest for otherwise unproductive fields positioned on steep hills.

There are some basic things to look out for, though, when sourcing a real tree. The Soil Association has details of retailers selling organic Christmas trees. And the Forest Stewardship Council has a list showing you how to get hold of an FSC-approved tree. Between them, these standards offer a guarantee that your tree has been farmed sustainably.

And try to find a tree that’s been grown as close to your home as possible – for anyone living outside a large conurbation this usually isn’t too tricky as it’s usually easy to find a local farmer who sells Christmas trees. Whether they are grown sustainably or not is another matter that only your questioning will uncover.

It is also worth considering getting a potted tree, rather than one that has been felled, so that you can use it again, following a wee trim, in subsequent years. The problem, of course, is storage. Not everyone can host a living Christmas tree at home throughout the year even if they are blessed with some outside space.

If you do have to buy a cut tree it is worth finding out first from your local authority whether it offers a Christmas tree collection service whereby it chips up all the trees into mulch. Many local authorities still do not offer such a service which could leave you with the headache of working out what to do with the tree come the twelfth day. Streets strewn with naked trees in early January is usually a good sign you do not live within a progressive local authority.

Buy a plastic tree

This option is often presented as the eco alternative to buying a real tree, but such claims fail to stack up in my view. First, there’s the canard that a plastic tree is “for life”, whereas most plastic trees are used little more than a handful of years before being discarded.

There’s also the claim that a plastic tree prevents a real tree from being cut down, whereas, as has already been mentioned above, Christmas trees are no different from any other farmed crop and are only planted with harvesting in mind.

And do we really want to encourage the production of yet another piece of plastic tat being produced thousands of miles away and shipped around the planet for our seasonal gratification?

Decorate an existing tree/plant

You may well get a nasty neighbour shouting “Scrooge!” at you through your front window, but some families just decorate a large house plant instead of buying in a cut conifer, as tradition dictates. Decorating a tree in the garden is also an option, although this could leave the presents underneath a tad soggy.

Do nothing

How about just foregoing the whole tradition altogether? (Granted, this is probably a little easier to pull off in child-free homes.) Some charities try to exploit – in the nicest sense – the fact that some of us just don’t like to suffer the guilt of excess that comes with Christmas. The Woodland Trust, for example, offers its Plant a Tree for Christmas gift. For £25, the price of a modest Christmas tree, you will be able to dedicate three trees in a wood of your choice.

So, in all maybe I would have a bamboo twig turned into a Christmas tree this year ! Why not ?

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