TBT: Feather Your Tree or Flock A Fir?

In Christine on The Scene by Christine McKellar

Environmentally Friendly Feather Firs

(Legal) German immigrants may have been the first American environmentalists in the early years of the 20th century. One of the many delightful traditions they brought overseas was the feather Christmas tree. Interestingly enough, the original feather tree was created in response to a growing concern with the deforestation associated with the harvesting of Christmas trees in Germany circa the 1880s and 1890s.

Generally considered to be the first of artificial Christmas trees, the fake firs were made of green-dyed goose feathers attached to wire branches. The wire branches were then wrapped around a central dowel that served as a trunk. Wax candles were commonly used as ornaments back in the Day, thus the tree branches were widely spaced to prevent the possibility of starting a fire.

The imported tradition became so popular in America that feather trees were sold by department stores. Consumers enjoyed the convenience of not having to schlep to tree lots or forests and they could also avoid the dreaded post-Christmas mess of shed-and-dead needles associated with live trees.


Plastic Replaces Feathers

As with all things commercial, the artificial tree fad morphed over time and plastic replaced feathers. Fake Christmas trees have been made from brush bristles, aluminum, fiber optics, and even holographic Mylar. Upside-down trees that are bolted to the ceiling or stand alone with a vase can also be bolted sideways into a wall.

Most artificial trees today are made in China from PVC that is recyclable.  While the larger ones are a bit pricey, they pay for themselves over time. Purchase options generally include a variety of built in lights or flocking, and a number of different shapes and sizes.

Antique and contemporary feather trees can easily be found online. The at-home creation of a feather tree makes for a good hobby as well as a personalized Christmas accessory for that someone special.