How to buy a Christmas tree
SMALL PRINTS:As a Christmas tree salesman in my late teens and early 20s, I must have sold more than a thousand trees. It was usually profitable, but seldom straightforward. There were hagglers, moaners, the odd thief and always at least one fella who was sent back by his wife to “change that horrid looking thing”.
Some customers kept it simple: they looked at a tree, picked it up, shook it, and handed over a bank note: a painless, two- to three-minute effort. Others wanted me to showcase the tree, and make them believe that this tree, and this tree only, was the one that was right for their home.
But making the sale was only half the battle. Then you had to lug the tree to their car, prune stumps and branches, and occasionally even travel to their house and put the thing up.
So, having been on the other end of the stick – and never wanting to return to the world of Christmas tree selling – here is some useful advice.
Buy your tree at the beginning of the second week in December. That way you should be getting hold of a tree from the seller’s second or third (and probably final) batch, the freshest possible. Leaving it within a week of Christmas Day is asking for trouble; slim pickings and a possible price hike.
The two most common trees on sale will be pine (the standard) and noble fir (the premium). Always expect the noble to be pricier as it’s prettier and doesn’t shed needles so readily.
The tree starts dying once it is chopped down, so don’t be alarmed if some needles are falling off. However, be vigilant if any of the needles are brownish in colour. Those trees will be fit for the skip by St Stephen’s Day.
Shop in daylight. Making a decision in semi-darkness could give you a nasty surprise when you get home.
Know your measurements. Sellers don’t care how it will look in your living room or whether the ceiling is high enough.
If you’re asking for the tree to be delivered then give the guy a tip. You’ll be guaranteed to receive the tree you picked out.
You can always haggle a little.
Alternatively move to Qatar (where I now live), and never worry about seeing a Christmas tree again.
A seasonal trip back in time
Feel like escaping the present and going back in time this December? During Waterford’s Winterval Christmas festival, an event at the Bishop’s Palace offers the opportunity to see how people celebrated the festive season in Georgian times.
A Georgian Christmas (running until December 23rd) will feature tours, with guides giving an insight into how Christmas was celebrated in the 18th century, from the domestic staff polishing the silver, the cook poaching fruit and preparing grouse and goose, and the wine cellar being examined to see which bottles need to be replenished, to the children of the house trying to figure out what gifts they would receive. The bustle, excitement, and relative excess of the seasonal preparations will allow visitors to be immersed in a time without selection boxes or light-up Christmas jumpers.
Entrance is €5 for adults, €4 concessions, and children under 14 go free. There will also be a series of free events, with talks about childhood at Christmas on December 13th and 19th, an insight on Georgian dining on December 12th and 18th, and on December 20th, the Bealtaine Choir will perform carols on the grand stairs in the palace’s entrance hall. For more on the festival, see winterval.ie