‘Tis the season for sipping hot chocolate, frolicking in the snow and selling Boy Scout Christmas trees.
The popular holiday fundraiser can be a great way for a troop or crew to earn some money, work on salesmanship techniques and practice elements of the Scout Law. Scouts can help families sort through and choose the perfect tree and carry it to their vehicles. They can also share a few tree care tips with customers, which is not only a kind gesture, but can enrich the experience of purchasing a fresh conifer.
This is one of the top traditional sellers in the country and comes in different types — Fraser, Douglas, balsam, noble. They’re “full” trees with plenty of sturdy branches to hang ornaments on while emitting a pleasant fragrance. Needles tend to be short and dark green. Neat fact: the name of the Christmas carol, O Tannenbaum, translates to “fir tree” in German.
The Scotch pine remains one of the most popular Christmas trees thanks to its branches, which point upward, creating perfect ornament holders. The tree tends to hold onto its needles and stays fresh for awhile. Branches are strong, so don’t be shy when picking a bough for that bulky, heavy decoration. Other well-liked types include the white and Virginia pines. It’s a good idea to arm Scouts with a tape measure or stick if they’re helping gauge tree sizes for customers. Knowing the size of the tree stand is important as you don’t want to shave off the bark or angle the base to make the tree fit, doing so would hurt the tree’s ability to draw water.
The Colorado blue spruce displays an attractive blue-green color; it’s often sold as a “living Christmas tree” that can be planted. Needles can start raining down after a spruce is cut. Remind customers that a freshly cut tree can absorb up to a quart of water for every inch of trunk diameter every day. So, a tree with a four-inch trunk should get a gallon of water a day.
Remember to check the tree stand daily to make sure there’s enough water.
Customer has allergies? You might want to suggest they consider a cypress tree, the most well-known type for Christmas is the Leyland. Cypress trees have soft, feathery foliage and tend to hold on to it. The Leyland is a sterile hybrid, and has characteristics that can be agreeable to those with allergies.
These trees have an attractive cone shape as well as a nice aroma and dark green color. Heat will dry out trees, so suggest customers keep their trees away from fireplaces and heat vents if they want their trees to stay green longer.
Keeping trees away from heat sources as well as making sure nearby electrical outlets aren’t overloaded cuts down on the risk of fires.
Decorated Christmas trees graced the cover of Boys’ Life for the first time in 1915, but they started becoming popular in American homes decades before. (In that issue, by the way, “Uncle Dan” Beard described how to have a Christmas-themed potlatch — a gift-giving feast, which was a tradition of Northwest Native Americans.)
A quick search with the help of our Boys’ Life Wayback Machine reveals Christmas trees sales have been popular fundraising projects for Scouts for decades. (Inset photo from the December 1961 edition).
Today, more than 20 million real trees are usually sold in the U.S. every year with the most popular kinds being pine, spruce and fir. Nonprofit groups, like the Boy Scouts, typically account for less than 15 percent of those sales.