Unlike Moscow and St. Petersburg, the central area of small towns is often decorated with an artificial tree that only vaguely resembles the real thing. Source: ITAR-TASS
The main tree in Russia stands on Cathedral Square inside the Kremlin. Each year, foresters in and around Moscow hold a contest for the best tree. It must meet the height requirements and have a proper crown. The height of the main Christmas tree is usually about 35 meters, and it should be at least 100 years old.
The process of chopping, or rather sawing, "Christmas Tree Number One" is always accompanied by traditional dancing and carols, and Grandfather Frost (Santa Claus) himself must give his blessing before the tree is felled. The locals who gather at the felling site regard all the ceremony as a big show. The huge tree is then carried off on a truck accompanied by vehicles from Russia's road safety inspectorate.
But not all towns and cities opt for real fir trees. Unlike Moscow and St. Petersburg, the central area of small towns is often decorated with an artificial tree that only vaguely resembles the real one. They are basically green cones with an iron frame, plastic branches, and ornaments.
The reasons are economic, since a plastic tree can be brought out time after time. Another factor is the pressure exerted on municipal governments by environmentalists who warn against using of living trees and promote artificial versions instead.
They also have the ear of ordinary people who buy Christmas trees for the home or office. The view that so-called “Christmas tree bazaars” are just as evil as the deforestation of Amazonia is widespread among Russians. Pedlars of real fir, spruce, and pine say that their trade causes no ecological harm. After all, growing fir trees is no different to the horticulture industry.
The Russian market is predominantly made up of trees from Russian, Danish, and Dutch nurseries. Native trees are several times cheaper than their European counterparts, but cannot compare with the latter in terms of appearance.
The most beautiful and expensive trees come from Denmark. Danish experts are held in high esteem for their many years of experience, and the country's especially mild climate also helps. Before Christmas trees are cut down and taken to Russia, they are grown for three-four years in the nursery.
A Danish Christmas tree retains its appearance for up to six weeks, so buyers in Moscow can be sure that it will stand resplendent for at least a month, because delivery and customs clearance take no more than two weeks.
"The latest trend is for Christmas trees to be delivered in pots, which really is the best method of getting them from the nursery to the consumer. That way the roots are kept intact and the tree continues to grow in Danish soil, despite being inside a Russian apartment. Come summer it can be planted in open ground and will quickly adapt," Timofei Dudchik says, manager of Yolki-Igolki, which imports Christmas trees and sells them wholesale.
"If any potted trees are not sold over New Year, they can be placed in special refrigerators where they sit quietly until the next festive season, which cannot be said about felled trees," he said.
Real or artificial, take your pick. But whereas plastic trees are available all year round, the Christmas tree bazaars only appear mid-December.
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