Buying a real Christmas Tree for the first time was not as smooth sailing as we thought it would be, especially because we were on a tight budget and we don’t have a car. I asked several Germans for advice and despite the many challenges we encountered, we ended up with a gorgeous tree that didn’t break the bank.
Christmas Tree Lots
For people without a car, it is wise to look at empty lots or parks nearby which are usually occupied by Christmas Trees a few weeks before Christmas day. Walk around your neighbourhood to see Tannenbaum or Weihnachtsbaum signs. We looked at Adenauerplatz (below), and a nearby church.
According to TD’s colleagues the best kind of tree to get is the Nordman Fir. So that’s what we looked for! Does anyone know what kind of tree is the best kind of Christmas Tree?
Christmas Tree Budget
After talking to a few Berliners, were set our budget to €50 for a 2 meter tree. Unfortunately the 1.8 to 2 meter Nordman Fir Christmas trees in the nearby lots were in the range of €100. There was a long debate between me and the hubby because I wanted to stick to our budget and get a smaller tree. TD on the other hand felt that if we were going to go for it, then we might as well get a gorgeous and respectably-sized tree (it was also going to be his first real Christmas tree). We kept on looking around, but didn’t find anything near our budget.
Christmas Tree Stand
We bought the Christmas tree stand before the tree because I wanted it to be ready once we had the tree. We thought the tallest tree we could afford, based on nearby Tannenbaum or Weihnachtsbaum lots (Christmas Tree lots), was around 2 meters so we got a base that could support a 2.2 meter tree maximum. It was a great bargain at less than € 25.
What to look for:
- Don’t get the old style Christmas tree stands that have screws on the side which you screw to the base of the tree
- Make sure to get the base for the correct height so your tree doesn’t fall and cause damage to your home and break precious glass tree decor.
- Water basin that is easy to refill and monitor so that you keep it full and avoid the tree drying out.
- A base with claws that tighten as you pump a pedal, which also keep your tree straight and adjust if your tree trunk is not too even.
IKEA Christmas Tree Lot
One day going home from IKEA (where to bought some cheap Christmas tree balls) we saw a huge lot for Christmas trees. I didn’t have much hope though because it would be too difficult to get the tree home from a lot that far.
We were getting a bit desperate and Christmas was near. I was about to put out our small artificial tree when our good friends offered to lend us a helping hand. Off TD and our friend went in his car to the IKEA lot and they were able to get a magnificent 2.4 meter Norman Fir for only €48. I was so impressed! We got a huge beautiful tree within our budget.
DEC 2015 UPDATE: This year we are so busy with the new baby and preparing for moving back to Asia that we decided to make everything as stress free as possible. I was so happy to find Meine Tanne, an online Christmas Tree shop that sells Norman Firs, which are only cut right before they are delivered to your doorstep on your desired date! How convenient is that? We got a smaller tree, 1.7 meters, for around € 50. So even if it is smaller, we are happy to still have a real tree this Christmas without having to go through any trouble!
The only thing was that the cheap base that we got was too small. Though TD wanted to take the risk and use a 2.2 meter base for a 2.4 meter tree, the tree looked so tall and big that I was afraid to take the risk. Especially since the tree is beside the flatscreen. And can you imagine what a disaster it would be with the water soaking into the parquet flooring? It just wasn’t worth the risk. The tree had to stay in the balcony overnight with it’s base in a pail of water.
Off TD went to exchange the base. Good thing this is so easy in Germany. Customers are really protected here and we are able to exchange or get cash back for stuff that are defective or unused 14-28 days after purchase. It’s such a big difference from the customer experience in Indonesia where most stores wouldn’t allow even an exchange.
TD ended up getting the Krinner Comfort Christmas Tree Stand which was what we wanted to get initially anyway. It costed €20 more than the cheap one we got (about €40+), but considering the risks, I’d rather spend that then pay for damages or experience stress. This stand has a 10 year guarantee which really says something considering the high quality of German-made products.
First we put a plastic protective sheet over the floor (we used our IKEA Kolon floor protector), then we positioned the stand in the centre and then set the tree on it. While I was holding the tree straight and upright, TD started pumping the pedal.
Once the tree was up, I felt that it wasn’t really straight so we readjusted. I don’t know what we did or if the stand was defective, but the pedal was loose and just wouldn’t tighten the support. So the tree had to be brought out for another day of chilling in the balcony. TD again had no problems exchanging the base, and came home with a new one. This time it totally took and the tree was up! I liked that the Krinner base has a bell that pings once the tree is completely secure. This is called the PING – patented automatic locking mechanism is useful for real Christmas tree newbies like us.
We used a watering can to fill it with water and were impressed with the water level indicator, a corklike float that goes up and down with the water level and has numbers indicating how many Liters are left inside. The 3.2 water capacity is great because it also meant less refilling of water and the tree wouldn’t go thirsty and dry out sooner.
German technology is amazing! I can’t imagine doing it the old way? Having to turn 4 eyebolts at the base of a tree. That must be a slow excruciating, not to mention sweaty, process for sure!
Once the tree was straight and there was water in the container, we cut the net holding the leaves. It was glorious to behold!
Traditionally Christmas Trees are lit up with candles, and stores like Depot still carry candle holders to clip on to trees. I am scared of this option because it’s a fire hazard and you will need to keep a fire extinguisher near by. Wouldn’t it put a damper on Christmas Eve if part of the tree was covered in extinguisher goo?
We already had Christmas tree lights so I didn’t want to spend more. We tried putting it on, only to realise that it’s much too short and covered only 1/3 of the tree. This is only one side of the tree that was covered with lights haha!
So TD had to brave the Christmas crowd and look for lights. We didn’t know that MediaMarkt had a wide selection of lights so TD spent 4 hours going back and fourth between BauHaus, KaDeWe and Karstadt. He was looking for at least 300 more LED bulbs to cover the other half of the tree.When he found a box of 300 LED bulbs that was 2.5 Meters long he bought it, only to realise that 1.5 meters of the length was only the wire and that the bulbs were concentrated in a 1 meter length – Oh-uh! But by the time we realised the boo-boo, he was home and was too tired to go back to KaDeWe to exchange again. We placed the clustered lights on the trunk on top to make up for it being a bit bare.
We removed the lights and put them on the tree again, this time not as dense as before so that it could cover the whole tree. The back isn’t so lit up and this is okay because no one would really see it. We made it work! I think it turned out quite lovely, what do you think?
Hanging ornaments in a real Christmas tree is different from an artificial one because the real ones have thicker leafy branches. When I bought balls in IKEA I bought ribbons for tying them to the tree, but they actually came with Christmas hooks similar in shape to the one below. These are better for hanging balls on a real tree because you can hang it in a thicker sturdier branch. While if you use the ribbon there is a chance it might slide off. I bought these from Depot in Karstadt Ku’damm. They are perfect for precious hand blown glass balls.
Our first time to have a real Christmas tree was funny, stressful and tiring because we didn’t know where to begin. But we managed because of the helpful locals – from the ladies at the WIB to the store staff who always give the best recommendations.
In the end for those wonderful weeks of Christmas time we knew it was worth all the trouble because the tree smelled so fresh and was just so glorious. I’ve never had a tree this big either! It was perfect for our high ceilings. We spent many of those dark Christmas evenings on our living room staring in wonder at our tree. We know we will only have 2 Christmases in Europe so we are trying to make the most out of it. SO. WORTH. IT.
DISPOSING OF YOUR TREE
Our German friend told us that many people just throw their tree out their window on to the sidewalk after Christmas time (which is after the feast of 3 Kings for us). I didn’t want to do this because of the size of our tree, which may…
- damage the sidewalk or
- hit someone (in Germany you are most certainly liable for damages and in danger of being sued)
So the day after 3 Kings, we removed the ornaments and that evening, carried the tree down to the sidewalk and placed it beside a tree. It’s a good thing too, because the very next day I heard a noise in the street and saw that they already picked up the trees from our side of the road. How efficient!
For those who bought it in the lot near IKEA, you can bring your tree (or even just the branch) back to IKEA with the flyer that proves it was purchased from them the tree on or before 11 January to get a 5 € voucher for use at IKEA. Isn’t that cool?
REAL CHRISTMAS TREE TIPS
- When choosing a tree, feel the leaves and grab them. If they are green, supple and healthy, and not much falls off then it’s good. If it feels dry and crunchy and the leaves are falling off then it’s probably not going to last long.
- Cut the base before setting it in the stand, this will allow the tree to absorb more water and will enable the tree to stay fresh longer. I wasn’t able to do this but I made sure to place the tree immediately in water when it was brought home so it wouldn’t dry out.
- As much as possible keep the base in water with a little Sprite. Make sure it never dries out. Refill your base regularly and also add a little sprite regularly too.
- Keep it far from the heating, because it will dry it out. If possible position near a window to keep it cool.
Do you have more tips to add? Drop me a line below!
I hope you find this post on our first real Christmas tree experience interesting and informative. It certainly was an interesting new experience for us!
What do you think of having a real Christmas tree? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!