You can race down to a box store for an artificial Christmas tree pre-strung with lights, or go for the real deal with needles that scent the house and drop when they dry out. Almost 50 percent of Christmas trees in homes and businesses are artificial coniferous-knock offs. But 30-35 million people in the country buy real trees to the tune of an estimated $1.3 billion.
Christmas trees have been sold commercially in the United States since about 1850. This year is no different as live Yuletide trees just arrived in Whitefish. “We’re the only lot up here,” says Jason Gronley, who manages Christmas tree sales in the Pin and Cue parking lot. “We run out and have to get more brought in.”
Gronley sells sub-alpine, balsam, and Douglas firs, spruces, and ponderosa, Norwegian, and plantation white pines. Depending on species, trees range from $25 for short four-footers to $150 for 18-footers that require vault ceilings. While some come from local sources, most are plantation grown.
Most people have their own favorites—broadly spaced sub-alpine branches to show off ornaments or compact, sheared plantation-grown for a thick, green look. “But most want a tree that is full,” notes Gronley.
Traditionally, folks didn’t put up and decorate Christmas trees until Dec. 24. They were taken down after Twelfth Night or Epiphany on Jan. 6. Thanks to the commercialization of Christmas, the indoor life of many Yuletide trees has extended from just after Thanksgiving to New Years Day. Gronley reports that he’s already busy. One woman even came looking earlier this week for a 30-foot-tall tree.
If you want to buy a real tree, hit the Christmas tree lot between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Or if you want the freshest tree you can get, pick up a $5 permit to chop down a tree in Flathead National Forest anywhere it is legal to cut firewood. In Whitefish, permits are sold at the Tally Lake Ranger Station (863-5400) or at Mike’s Conoco.
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