Nature on our doorsteps - The Christmas Tree tradition in Ireland

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

In the past, bringing sprigs of Holly indoors at Christmas sometimes extended to bringing in an entire small shrub of Holly, laden with shiny red berries!

Buying and decorating small conifer trees, however, is a relatively recent tradition.

Choosing the right tree isnt always easy compressor

Choosing the right tree isn’t always easy!

This first became fashionable In Britain when Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert, brought the tradition with him from Germany.

The widespread sale of Christmas trees as we know it today only became popular in Ireland in the 1940s.

When State-owned commercial forestry programmes expanded in the 1920s and 1930s, many plantations were ready for thinning by the 1940s.

This ‘thinning’ process cuts out weaker trees, giving room for other stronger trees to develop in the space.

During thinning operations, the tops of these removed trees were trimmed to size and sold as Christmas trees.

Being a by-product of the timber trade, the variety of tree species in the early days was limited mainly to Norway Spruce and Lodgepole Pine.

Christmas trees and Chrsitmas wreaths for sale compressor

Christmas trees and Christmas wreaths for sale

These did not always have a good shape and tended not to hold their leaves well.

In the 1980s, the Irish Christmas Tree industry was established, growing high-quality non-shedding species like Noble Fir and Nordmann Fir.

Over 80 Irish growers now exist, harvesting over 600,000 trees.

From humble beginnings, the Irish Christmas tree tradition is now worth over €21 million per year to the country’s economy.

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