Saturday, November 28, 2009


The tradition of having a Christmas tree in the White House began 120 years ago in 1889 – Benjamin Harrison’s first Christmas there. The tradition has continued since then, though the details vary from year to year. The residents of the White House change. The decorations change. The people that handle the many, many details change. The species of tree, the location where it was grown and the people donating the tree change.

Yet some things stay the same – the awe inspired by the spectacular look of the White House decked out for the Christmas season, the festive atmosphere, the warmth and grace of the first ladies accepting the trees, and the incredible efforts of the White House staff to make the presentation of the tree special for the family donating it.

In 1966, the National Christmas Tree Association began donating the official White House Christmas tree. That first year, Howard Pierce of Wisconsin loaded up a Christmas tree and hauled it to Washington DC while President and Mrs. Johnson were away for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Over the years, the tradition has evolved into a festive ceremony with a Belgium horses pulling a tree-laden wagon up to the doors of the White House while the Marine band plays Christmas music and the First Lady looks on then accepts the tree on behalf of the American people.

The couple that presented the tree is year, Eric and Gloria Sundback, first donated the official White House Christmas tree 30 years ago. The honor of presenting the tree goes to the winners of NCTA’s national Christmas tree contest, which the Sundbacks have now won four times. In 1979, they presented a tree to First Lady Rosalynn Carter. In 1981 and 1987, they presented trees to Nancy Reagan. And this year, they presented the tree to Michelle Obama.

The Sundback’s noticed a few changes as well. For one, their family had changed. Grandchildren that were not yet born when they last presented a tree were in attendance.
Another difference they noticed was the media coverage of the event. Media covered the selection of the tree in October. Several camera crews went to the farm for the cutting and many more were at the presentation.
In a few days, the media will return to the White House to get the first glimpse of the Christmas magic woven by the skilled employees and volunteers of the White House. I can hardly wait to see what “our” tree looks like when it is decorated!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Let the cones fly!

Well, here we are ...another great season of fresh Christmas trees. We haven't heard (knock on wood) of any major harvest snafus going on, so tree lots and farms should be stocked and ready to go this weekend.

Already getting some good questions from tree enthusiasts out there. Some samples with my answers in blue:

Sent: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 2:46 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree stand question

I have a metal pot that I would like to put my Christmas tree in this year rather than the traditional stand with tree skirt - it is NOT wide enough to hold a stand inside - can I use wet sand? for moisture and stability - or does the tree need to "drink" water and thus I need to find an alternative?
Thank You - Jennifer

You need a good stand so the cut surface of the tree is in water. Wet sand won’t suffice for either water absorption by the tree, nor stability I would think. Is the pot round? There are some good round stands out there…many different shapes and sizes …I wouldn’t assume you couldn’t find on that fits inside the decorative pot. Lots of water though is key to the longevity of the tree itself.

From: CL Page
Sent: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 1:33 PM
Subject: Christmas tree question


Please help me remember the name of the type of tree that is not a fir, nor a pine. The tree has hard needles and lots of space between the branches...enough space so that large ornaments can be hung and move freely. Some people call it the Charlie Brown or Peanuts tree...muchas gracias, CL

That’s a fairly common question. The sparse look is dependent somewhat upon the genetics of the tree, but mostly through the shearing practices of the grower more so than species. The more open, less dense look is starting to become more popular among some consumers, so the Christmas Tree farmers will be working to meet that demand, however the average tree takes 7 to 10 years to get to 6 or 7 feet high and the majority of consumers still want a full, thick tree. Check with farms in your area and ask them if they have a "less sheared" tree or one that "would be graded a cull". The grower will understand what you are looking for.

From: Bob B
Sent: Tuesday, November 24, 2009 11:05 AM
Subject: aspirin hurt the tree?

My son just finished his 6th grade science project.
He took 3 fresh cut 4 ft blue spruce and fed 1 water , fed another a commercial solution to make trees last longer and the third tree aspirin and water.
To his ( and my surprise) after 5 weeks the aspire and water tree drank a lot more but lost a lot more needles ( factor of 10!).
It was a great experiment and he learned al lot but he is having trouble finding research on any type of aspirin poisoning ?

Can you point him in the right direction - thanks

Aspirin won’t poison the tree. It really has no effects at all on moisture levels or needle retention, either positive or negative. You can find a list of published research on post-harvest keepability on this page

From: Kelly
Sent: Tuesday, November 24, 2009 9:46 AM
Subject: Organic christmas trees

I am looking for an organic christmas tree farm in the chicago area, zip code 60558. Can you help me?


No, that’s not a category we keep in our data base. Please bear in mind anyway, a tree labeled “organic” is not any different from one not labeled thus.

OK....good start. Happy Tree Hunting and keep the questions coming. We'll be in the office answering questions on Friday while digesting our turkey!

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Somewhat related to fake trees trying to horn in...

Received a tweet about getting a fake tree instead of a real one because they are not allowed in this person's apartment building. Posted below with our full answer.

Jenna (@jmd05) asked:
@Trees4Troops Do you have an option for those Military families who live in apartments who are only allowed fake trees due to fire hazards?


First, understand that there is no fire code that prohibits cut trees from being displayed in any individual residential apartment units. Now, if your specific apartment building manager(s) have announced and enforced that prohibition, they are legally allowed to do that, but that’s their personal decision. I just want you to be informed in case they try to deflect your appropriate outrage by copping a “it’s against fire code” excuse.

Second, if you are able, you are encouraged to share with those decision-makers how absurd that prohibition is. Start with this online brochure Also, plenty of information about safety and risk of trees catching on fire from accidental ignition sources on the NCTA web site . We can’t force your apartment manager(s) to listen to facts, logic and reason, but at least we can stick it in their faces.

Third, fake trees are not really any less of a fire hazard than a farm-grown one. Fake trees catch on fire every year …albeit at a very low rate, just like real trees. Plastic can and does combust and burn. See this page for photos from a fire department demonstration

Good Luck.

this is really low ...I mean, ick

Reprinted from Steve Drake's blog on Causaholic. It's about the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation's Trees for Troops program.

The Christmas SPIRIT Foundation (CSF) accidentally discovered a copycat ripoff of our TweetUp4Troops effort to generate support for its Trees for Troops program.And, this ripoff creates an ethical dilemma for the Foundation and CSF would like your opinion and suggestions.Here's the scoop:
The Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, the 501(c)(3) charitable branch of the National Christmas Tree Association, advances the spirit of Christmas for kids, families and the environment. The National Christmas Tree Association represents the growers, wholesalers and retailers of farm-grown Christmas Trees (often referred to as real trees).
For four years, the Foundation -- with support from FedEx -- has implemented a hugely successful Trees for Troops program which touches the lives of military families by providing them a free, farm-grown Christmas tree. The Foundation has reached 50,082 military families around the world.
To help generate financial support for Trees for Troops, the Foundation created and organized TweetUp4Troops events to be held during Veterans Day Week (Nov 7-14). As part of the campaign, the Foundation created a TweetUp4Troops group site, web site and Twitter handle.
Last week, a Foundation staffer accidentally typed in and discovered that someone in the artificial tree industry had registered this domain name and created a web site that is purely sales, a giant advertisement for artificial Christmas trees. The site's creator has NOTHING to do with the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation nor does NOTHING to support the Trees for Troops program.
The Christmas SPIRIT Foundation sees the fake tree industry's action as a rouse designed to "capture and divert" people who support (or want to support) the Foundation and its Trees for Troops program.
It seems to be a hoax to deceive potential donors.
We don't know how many potential sponsors accidentally typed "for" rather than "4" and got the fake page rather than the real TweetUp4Troops site. We're not sure that matters.
The Foundation remains stunned that a company/industry would stoop so low as to try to deceive donors interested in supporting U.S. military families.
So, we're asking for your advice. What does the Foundation do? How can (or should) it respond? What would you do if someone sabotaged your cause or non-profit and attempted to divert your donors into a different web site that is a sales piece rather than a donation page?
Please post your comments and suggestions.
PS: One lesson learned: register every domain name that closely resembles the name and/or Website of your cause.

Let's be clear about is in NO way associated with the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, Trees for Troops or National Christmas Tree Association; it is currently owned and managed by an artificial tree seller. Those looking to support the troops should visit…. We apologize to any Americans for any confusion this may have caused. This was a pretty low and slimy thing for the fake tree people to do.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

And away they go...

Trees for Troops International Kick-off Event
Yesterday’s Trees for Troops international kick-off event from the Department of Agriculture in Columbus, Ohio went off without a hitch. Over 75 Ohio farmers, area school children, local and FedEx volunteers helped to pack-up handmade holiday cards, decorations and over 200 Christmas trees which are on their way to Kuwait to be delivered to military installations in Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The second international shipment is scheduled for November 24 from Thorntown, Ohio. U.S. base deliveries and Trees for Troops Weekend begins in December.

Media onsite included:
Columbus ABC/Fox affiliate- Dave Hill interview
This Week Community Newspapers
Ohio Ag publication
Radio interviews were conducted earlier with radio stations in Columbus and Toledo by Amy Galehouse
Toledo NBC 24 ran a story during their Nov 7th broadcast.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How Will You Share the Christmas Spirit?

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you've probably heard us mention the Trees for Troops program from time to time. Created by the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, the 501(c)(3) charitable branch of NCTA, the Trees for Troops program has delivered more than 50,000 Real Christmas Trees to military families across the nation and around the world.

The program is gearing up for its fifth year, with a goal of delivering 15,000 trees to more than 50 military bases. You can learn more about the program by visiting, but I wanted to point out a few quick ways you can get involved this year.

1) Make a donation to the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation. This is probably the quickest and easiest way to show your support -- just visit

2) Purchase a tree at a participating farm or lot during Trees for Troops Weekend - Dec. 4-6, 2009. Find a location near you at (Hint: you may not have to wait until T4T Weekend -- some of the locations are taking pre-orders -- call the farm/lot to check.)

3) Host or attend a "TweetUp4Troops" event in your area. This year, individuals and groups across the nation will be hosting local grassroots fundraising events during Veteran's Day Week - and it's not too late to join them. Learn more at

4) Purchase a T4T commemorative ornament. For $30 (plus S&H), you can purchase a commemorative pewter ornament, with proceeds benefiting the Trees for Troops program. With a $50 donation, an additional ornament will be sent to a deserving military family.

5) Purchase Trees for Troops apparel. Through a special offer from Greater than Goods, $5 from each item purchased will be donated to the program.

6) Leave a message for the troops. Show your support at

Thank you to everyone for your support of the program!