My New Year Spruce Tree

Spruce trees are one of those goods that lose their value in an instant. On the morning of 31st December, people sell them as Christmas trees. At the evening of the same day, unsold spruce trees litter the dumpsters. In Latvia people start selling Christmas trees in mid December, and 31st December is the last date on which trees are still available for sale. Then, at the evening of 31st December, all the unsold trees become garbage and are thrown out.

I do not celebrate Christmas, at least not in the traditional way, but I do have some Christmas traditions. At the evening of 31st December, I always go dumpster diving for a spruce tree. Often Christmas tree sellers simply leave all their unsold trees near some dumpster. This is where I get my New Year spruce tree every year. For free, obviously.

Since I do not celebrate Christmas, I don’t care about having a Christmas tree at home on some specific day. But I do enjoy having a spruce tree at home during winter. I wouldn’t want to chop down a tree for myself, but since the unsold trees are considered garbage anyway, I can pick them up. I do not decorate my spruce trees, I just keep them bare in my bedroom during the first half of January. I think that spruce trees look great on their own. Hanging some pieces of plastic on them wouldn’t make them prettier in my eyes.

More importantly, I absolutely adore the smell of spruce needles. It’s one of my favorite scents. And it’s my all time favorite scent for cosmetics (some men’s shampoos and soap come scented like spruce trees). I don’t care about popular scents like rose or lavender, but spruce needles, hell yeah. I love this scent.

My other favorite scent is that of linden tree flowers (Tilia platyphyllos). I also like Philadelphus coronaries (sweet mock-orange, English dogwood), which is a widely cultivated ornamental shrub with beautiful and fragrant flowers. My favorite nice smelling spring flowers are Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley), and Prunus padus (bird cherry, hackberry, hagberry, or Mayday tree).

Yesterday evening, I left my home at 7:30 p.m. I got back home three hours later. That was one hell of a walk. The weather was windy, and I even got some ice pellets on my head. But at least I got my tree.

Previous years, I could easily find some abandoned spruce trees next to my home. Christmas tree sellers simply discarded unsold trees and left them next to some dumpster. Yesterday, I checked all the spots where Christmas trees are sold in the vicinity of my home. Every one of them was empty and cleaned up. I assume that some city officials (or maybe trash collectors) had complained about discarded trees, which is why Christmas tree sellers started cleaning up after themselves. Why else would they do that? I mean, they used to just abandon trees in previous years. After a lot of walking, I had already lost all hopes and started getting really disappointed. Until I finally found a few abandoned trees. When I finally spotted them, I was so immensely happy. I was so relieved that my long walk hadn’t been in vain that I got greedy and grabbed two trees at once.

Spruce Tree

This tree now stands in my bedroom. The other tree that I obtained is almost as large and now stays in my mother’s room. Getting both spruce trees home was a bit challenging, because the strong wind made it hard to carry bulky objects, and I had a tree in each hand. Such occasions make me envious of those men who are naturally big and physically strong. Still, I am too lazy to get serious about regular training and weight lifting.

Anyway, at least at the end the mission was a success, and I got my New Year’s spruce tree. This year I still succeeded in finding an abandoned spruce tree, but I don’t like how Christmas tree sellers have started to clean up after themselves. Dumpster diving gets impossible once people stop abandoning stuff in places where I can easily take it.

In comparison, here is a photo I took back in January 2014.

Spruce tree, January 2014

That was the most impressive spruce tree I have ever managed to find in a dumpster. By the way, in my home the ceilings are 3 meters high. That tree was huge. It’s sad that my days of being able to pick up impressive spruce trees for free could be ending.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    On what date do Latvians celebrate Christmas? I’m confused who buys a Christmas tree on December 31st, or 26th come to that.

  2. kestrel says

    Pretty trees! I agree it’s a shame to decapitate a whole bunch of trees and then throw them out. One place I used to live would ask everyone to put the trees out on a certain day, and the city would pick them up. The trees were then chipped, and the wood chips were used on dirt roads (there were a lot of dirt roads there) to help fill in low places and puddles. I used to live on a goat farm and we would pick up used Christmas trees (as long as they had no flocking or something on them) and we fed them to the goats, although of course, you must not feed them to a pregnant goat, as conifers may cause abortion in goats.

    For a while we had a tradition in my family of buying a living tree – one with the roots intact – and using it for a Christmas tree, then in the spring we would plant it. I still do that from time to time.

  3. lumipuna says

    I think if unsold trees were commonly left in easily accessible places, even for a short period of time, lots of people would go chasing for a free last-moment Christmas tree instead of buying one – so naturally retailers try to not discard them in the open.

  4. says

    lumipuna @#4

    That makes sense. Still, I wonder why they used to discard the trees in previous years but have stopped the practice only now.

    Retailers who sell food routinely discard unsold food so as to make sure than no dumpster diver can get near it, because the alternative would mean loosing profit. Unfortunately, the current practice of discarding stuff that could still be used creates pointless harm for the environment.

  5. lochaber says

    This is super late, but I was recently reminded of how rarely I see discounted holiday products lately, and thought it might relate to this post.

    I remember I used to be able to find more cheaply discounted Easter candy then I could carry, or tons of fruitcake and eggnog after Christmas/NewYear’s, and they were both heavily discounted.

    ~10 years ago, I remember filling a backpack with candy and chocolate for a couple dollars, there were multiple shelves/piles of stuff that was discounted well over ~50% off, but as of a couple years ago, there would maybe be a single shelf, and it would only be like ~10% off, or even still full price. So, I stopped looking.

    I’m wondering if there are better computer prediction models now, based on all the stuff scraped off of facebook and what not, that allow large chains to be more accurate in their predictions? And that this is also affecting Christmas trees as well? or if there is something else going on.

  6. says

    lochaber @#6

    My observation about discounted Christmas snacks aligns with yours. And, yes, I miss the times when I could get heavily discounted food in January.

    However, Christmas trees in Latvia aren’t produced by large corporations. Instead they are grown by a bunch of small family businesses. Those should be less likely to use prediction models. At least that’s what I assume.

    Anyway, I looked up the websites of some of these businesses. One of them offered also a Christmas tree collection service for their clients who had purchased a tree. In their webpage they explained that collected Christmas trees are shredded and used as a mulch. It’s possible that multiple Christmas tree producers have started thinking also about how to utilize the trees after the shopping season is over.

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