Christmas tree fast facts

Christmas tree fast facts

Learn the numbers, history and folklore behind the $1.3 billion 'real' tree industry.

December 21, 2016

Each year, the National Christmas Tree Association commissions a consumer tracking study to watch trends in the production and sale of Christmas trees.

According to the study, which was conducted by Harris Interactive, there were 25.9 million real trees purchased in 2015 at a retail value of $1.32 billion. That's an increase from 2014, when the total retail value was just over $1 billion. Artificial trees made of aluminum or plastic had a 2015 retail value of $854 million, and 12.5 million were sold in 2015.

The study reports that the average amount of money spent on a real Christmas tree is $50.82. This is a big increase from 2014, when the average spent per real tree was $39.50. The 2015 average spend on “fake” trees was $69.38.

Three out of four Americans that purchase a real Christmas tree choose a pre-cut tree. The poll also shows 32 percent of tree buyers purchase from a choose and cut farm. Next is chain stores like Home Depot or Walmart, at 26 percent. Nonprofit groups like the Boy Scouts of America or churches take third with 12 percent. Nurseries and garden centers are tied with retail lots for fourth place, with 10 percent of the market.

Here are some more Christmas tree facts from the NCTA:

  • There are approximately 310 million real Christmas trees currently growing on Christmas tree farms in the U.S. alone, all planted by farmers.
  • North American real Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states and Canada.
  • 80 percent of artificial trees worldwide are manufactured in China, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
  • Real trees are a renewable, recyclable resource. Artificial trees contain nonbiodegradable plastics and possible metal toxins such as lead.
  • There are local Christmas tree recycling programs throughout North America which utilize the plant material for numerous purposes.
  • Between January and May, 1 to 3 seedlings are planted at farms to replace trees harvested for the previous Christmas.
  • There are about 309,365 acres in production for growing Christmas trees in the U.S.; much of it preserving green space.
  • There are close to 13,000 farms growing Christmas trees in the U.S., and an estimated 100,000 people employed full or part-time in the industry.
  • It can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of typical height (6 - 7 feet) or as little as 4 years, but the average growing time is 6 to 8 years.
  • The top Christmas tree producing states are Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Washington.
  • Common Christmas tree species (in alphabetical order) are: Balsam fir, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, Noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine and White pine. But there are more than 35 species of conifers grown as Christmas trees.

Christmas tree folklore and history:

• 1510, the first decorated Christmas tree is in Riga, Latvia. Early Christmas trees are decorated with paper, fruits and sweets.

• 1531, the first retail Christmas tree lots are started in German cities.

• By the 1600s, Christmas trees are decorated with ribbon, tin shapes, small books and lace as well as food.

• 18th century, the first recorded Christmas tree decorated with lit candles.

• 1777, the tradition of the Christmas tree is brought to Colonial America by Hessian troops fighting for Britain in the Revolution War.

• 1804, U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Dearborn (now Chicago) bring evergreen trees into their barracks at Christmas.

• 1842, Charles Minnegrode introduces the custom of a decorated Christmas tree in Williamsburg, Va.

• 1851, Mark Carr opens a retail Christmas tree lot in New York City, the first in the U.S.

• 1856, Franklin Pierce, our 14th President, brings the first Christmas tree into the White House.

• 1923, President Calvin Coolidge starts the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony that now occurs every year on the Ellipse between the White House and the Washington Monument.

• 1966, members of the National Christmas Tree Association start the tradition of presenting a real Christmas tree each year to the First Lady for display in the White House.


Photo: Matt McClellan

Broken Arrow Nursery, Hamden, Ct., began as a Christmas tree farm, before becoming one of the only retail nurseries in Connecticut to propagate and sell most of its plants. The nursery keeps 20 acres of choose and cut Christmas trees.